ALBANY New York's first state troopers rode horses, bunked in rooming houses while on patrol and communicated via telephone party lines. They kept the peace during labor strife despite being outnumbered and outgunned by armed strikebreakers and company guards.
But many of the 232 original "Gray Riders" were buried in unmarked graves or plots that gave no indication they had served in the New York State Police. Retired state police Sgt. Kevin Kailbourne is leading an effort to rectify that through his ongoing effort to mark the graves of every state trooper with a special emblem, including those of the men who became the first troopers in 1917.
"The families are very appreciative that their loved-ones haven't been forgotten," said Kailbourne, a 32-year veteran who lives in Wellsville in Allegany County.
So far, Kailbourne and Trooper Tom Mungeer, president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State Troopers, have identified the graves of more than 200 of the original 232 troopers.
The latest is Byron E. Hupman Sr., who died in 1962 and was buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery in Whitehall, on the Vermont border. Hupman served 15 months as a trooper, leaving the agency in October 1918 to serve in World War I. A dedication ceremony for a new gravestone and a special state trooper marker was held Sunday at Hupman's gravesite.
Kailbourne started his project in western New York in the late 1990s and was able to devote more time to it after retiring at the end of 2004. Since then, the 66-year-old Kailbourne has compiled a database of some 3,200 deceased troopers, including 210 of the original "Gray Riders," so named for the color of their uniforms.
Kailbourne began his search for deceased troopers in the western part of the state and is working his way eastward with the help of other retired troopers, active troopers and state police civilian retirees. The Police Benevolent Association is helping with the cost of the project, which includes the graveside placement of small New York state flags and markers with an image of a trooper wearing a Stetson and bearing the words "New York State Police Proudly served."
New York State Police don't provide any funding for the project.
About 1,200 of the special markers have been placed at troopers' graves, more than half of them by Kailbourne and his wife. He's also seeking the graves of New York troopers buried in about two dozen other states, including Florida, where he spends winters.
"We all have a common bond wearing this uniform," said Mungeer, a 21-year veteran who works out of Liberty in Sullivan County. "They all served the people of New York state and they should be remembered for that duty."