Tombstone mystery nearly solved 2012.05.16

Written by David Green.

It’s nothing too unusual for Sue and Randy Clement to find objects buried in their Union Street yard in Morenci. They’ve found pottery shards and other remnants of the past, and a visit from the outhouse diggers [featured in the Sept. 22, 2010 Observer] turned up another collection of relics.

What they found last week was the most unusual yet.

“We were getting our garden ready and we hit something,” Sue said. “Anytime we hit something, I have to dig it up.”

This find was just a little creepy, she said. They unearthed a tombstone, and it wasn’t a relic from the distant past: Dahrel F. Gottschalk, 1914-1972; Catherine R. Gottschalk, 1928- . The stone was face down under a foot of soil. 

The Clements called city hall and soon had a visit from police chief Larry Weeks who needed to determine if it was an actual gravesite.

So began a mystery that’s mostly been solved—at least two thirds of the puzzle.

John Sinks saw an article about the gravestone in the Adrian newspaper and told Chief Weeks how it came to be buried in the Clements’ yard.

Back when the Sinks lived next to the Clement house, their son, Mike, had a summer job with the Lenawee County Road Commission. He spotted the tombstone in a ditch one day and took it home, believing he could use it for a marble top table.

He later realized it was too heavy and his father suggested that he bury it in the yard to get it out of the way.

That was the source of the “clunk” when the Clements were digging, but what about Mr. Gottschalk?

Chief Weeks did a little digging of his own, using the findagrave.com website. In the Oakwood Cemetery near Flat Rock, Mich., there’s a tombstone for Dahrel F. Gottschalk with the same 1914-1972 dates. This time, Catherine isn’t listed. A reporter from the Adrian paper discovered what appears to be her grave with a second husband.

A genealogy website discussion mentions a Dahrel F. Gottschalk born in Liberty Center, Ohio, on May 15, 1914, and there have been Gottschalks in Morenci in the past, including school music teacher John Gottschalk in the 1930s.

For the most part, the case of the mysterious gravestone is solved, with one glaring exception: How did it ever end up in a Lenawee County ditch?

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