Veterans cemetery set for Romulus
State commits $500,000 to the project near Sampson State Park in Seneca County.
Special to the Star-Gazette November 21, 2005

State Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio, R-Fayette, right, chats with Ovid businessman Dan Motill about the creation of a veterans cemetery near Sampson State Park.

Acreage that once supported farm families in the town of Romulus in Seneca County, and the former site of the U.S. Navy's largest hospital on the East Coast, is about to take on two very different uses.

The 450-acre site, on state Route 96A and just south of Sampson State Park, has been proposed as the 100-acre site of New York state's first cemetery for veterans. During a recent visit to the area, state Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio, R-Fayette, said the state has committed $500,000 to create the cemetery.

The other 350 acres would be turned over to the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency and used to attract new businesses.

Nozzolio and Assemblyman Brian Kolb of Canandaigua said they will co-sponsor legislation transferring the acreage to the industrial development agency and a cemetery governing board, yet to be named. That board would be responsible for the design of the cemetery and would use the same guidelines as those applying to the nation's many national cemeteries.

Nozzolio said he visualizes "a world-class cemetery" where veterans would be laid to rest at no charge. Members of their immediate families also would qualify for burial rights at a nominal fee.

He urged veterans nationwide to make their thoughts and ideas known by contacting his office at 888/568-9816 or by visiting his Web site at for additional information.

Steve Bull, the president of the Sampson World War II Navy Veterans, said the cemetery project has been advocated for many years. "This is great news for the several hundred thousand veterans living in the Finger Lakes region."

Locally, the push to create the cemetery seems to have sprung from the Sampson World War II Navy Veterans. Since then, support has come from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, veterans of the Korean War, the New York State Council of Veterans Organizations, and local governing bodies.

The 450-acre site and another 1,850 acres now making up Sampson State Park were owned and occupied by the Navy during World War II as a recruit training facility. A large, modern hospital anchored the southern flank. Stretching from there to the north were numerous buildings where 411,000 men and women were introduced to military life from 1942 to 1946.

With scores of veterans on their way home and anxious to continue their education with the end of the war, Sampson served as a college from 1946 to 1949. The U.S. Air Force occupied it next, offering basic training to 300,000 men during the Korean War, from 1950 to 1955.

Five years later, 1,852 acres were transformed into Sampson State Park. The 450 acres where the hospital stood was not included as part of the park property. Instead, the land was sold to a trio of Lodi men for salvage purposes.

Seeking a location for a maximum-security prison, the state purchased 450 acres several years ago when prison space was badly needed. The prison was built, but just off state Route 96 on the grounds of the former Seneca Army Depot in the town of Romulus and is known today as the Five Points Correctional Facility.

Nozzolio said the unused acres, where the hospital and related structures once stood, are considered surplus property by the state and are not needed for any state purposes. A portion is alloted for grain crop, raised there by a local farmer, and archers are allowed some deer hunting privileges. Otherwise, the land is off-limits to the general public.

James Dockstader, a New Jersey resident and president of the Sampson Air Force Base Veterans Association, said he was extremely excited that a veterans cemetery could become a reality.