Saint Elizabeth’s East Campus Cemetery has a brand new headstone. It marks the burial spot of Medal of Honor recipient Joseph B. Noil, who was awarded the medal in 1873 for jumping into icy water at Norfolk Harbor to save a shipmate that had fallen overboard the USS Powhatten.
When Noil was buried in 1882, he was buried under a headstone that misidentified him as “Joseph B. Noel,” with no acknowledgement of his award.
The Navy Veteran’s story was unraveled by the Medal of Honor Historical Society, which inspired a blog post that caught the attention of Will Carpenter, a longtime Veteran of the U.S. Merchant Marines. Carpenter began the search for Noil’s decedents. That effort led to the discovery of Bernadette Ricks, Noil’s great-great-great granddaughter.
Ricks was able to attend the April 29 ceremony to dedicate Noil’s headstone correcting both his last name and recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient.
She only recently learned of her great-great-grandfather’s history when she was contacted by Carpenter.
“It’s such a humbling experience that he was such a man that he did all this,” said Ricks. “That people so many years later still appreciate what it is that he’s done.”
Ricks and her daughter were seated in front of the grave site for the revealing of the headstone. Wreaths were laid, and Ricks was given a folded flag in honor of Noil.
“I can’t tell you how much this flag means to me,” she said.
VAntage Point applauds the efforts of all those who worked to ensure that Seaman Noil will never be forgotten and that his family now knows the true nature of his character and service to America.
For more photos from the event, visit our Flickr album.
Editor’s note: Through the National Cemetery Administration, VA furnishes upon request, at no charge to the applicant, a government headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible Veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death. Learn more here.