Timothy G. Harris’s tombstone stands in quiet Oakwood Cemetery. But it also leans against a concrete road divider on the edge of a local scrap yard.
A concerned veteran is trying to figure out what happened.
Four weeks ago, a man dropped off a load of scrap metal at a local recycling facility (the owner asked that his company’s name not be printed). Hidden in the pile, the owner found the white granite tombstone, which had been used to add weight to the load.
According to his marker and Navy records, Harris was a petty officer third class. He died Sept. 24, 2000, at the age of 34. “And we don’t know what his story was,” says Brian Slack, a friend of the scrap yard owner and a veteran himself. We “just want to get this veteran his tombstone back to him.”
Here’s the twist: “There’s already a headstone on that gravesite,” says Christy Everson, the spokeswoman for the city Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Department. “So it doesn’t need replacing.” The city oversees Oakwood Cemetery, where Harris is interred. Headstones are the private property of families of the deceased, Everson adds.
The information on the marker matches online military records. If the stone were a duplicate, or an error, it should have been destroyed, Slack says. That’s the policy of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The owner of the scrap yard reported the incident to police, who arrived and took a photo. Slack also called the administrator at Oakwood Cemetery, Ricky Weeks, to no avail. “No one has contacted me whatsoever,” Slack says. “I just don’t quite understand it.”
The owner of the company says he knows who took the marker because he requires scrap sellers to submit their drivers’ licenses. As of Monday, no arrest had been made.
How much extra money did the man get for the weight of the tombstone?