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?

  • Front.splash
    Water Fun—Carter Seitz and Colson Walter take a fast trip along a plastic sliding strip while water from a sprinkler provides the lubrication. The boys took a break from tie-dyeing last week at Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program to cool off in the water.
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    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.drum
    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
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