SEVIERVILLE (AP) — A tombstone belonging to an East Tennessee Korean War veteran that was found at the bottom of a ravine has been returned to the cemetery where it belongs.
The Mountain Press reports that a pair of tree-trimmers found the tombstone in July while working in the Wears Valley community of Sevier County. When they realized what it was — and that it memorialized a veteran — they took it with them and set off to find out where it belonged. The only clues on the stone were the name, Lawrence Johnson Walters, that he was a veteran of the Korean War and that he lived in Tennessee.
The pair contacted Sevier County Public Library System genealogist Theresa Williams, who at first was able to only find out that Walters was born and died in Anderson County. It was a start, though, and she decided to send letters and make calls to mortuaries and funerals homes there.
“It was really important to me to find where it belongs,” Williams said. “The day after I sent the letters, I got a response from Weatherford Mortuary (in Oak Ridge).”
Sandy Weatherford told Williams that they didn’t handle the arrangements, but she searched local records and found out that Walters was buried in Sunset Cemetery in Clinton.
Williams’ next call was to Doug Rhea, manager of Sunset Cemetery.
“I didn’t know it was missing until (Williams) called,” he told the newspaper. He traveled to Sevier County last weekend to pick it up.
“We will make sure it gets back in the rightful place,” he said. “We’ll go through the books to see the exact location where it belongs.”
Rhea said he really appreciated Williams’ dedication to finding out where the tombstone belonged.
“She went through a lot of work to do that,” he said. “Most people wouldn’t care (as much).”
Rhea said cemetery officials don’t know when the tombstone was taken or how it ended up so far away.
“It’s hard to believe it was found all the way up here,” Rhea said. “If it was found in Clinton it would not be OK, but it would be more understandable. I don’t know how people could do that and sleep at night.”