Karns woman says father's gravestone discovered in Nebraska

5:23 PM, Sep 23, 2010   |    comments
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A new clue may unravel the mystery as to how and why three gravestones with Knoxville ties ended up in Nebraska.

One of those markers belongs to George Andrew Tate Jr., according to his daughter.

Sharon Carmichael, who lives in Karns, said she spotted her father's marker in news broadcasts about the discovery.

"We'd like to find out what the whole story was behind it, how they all ended up in Nebraska like that, so far from Tennessee, so it's kind of strange," Carmichael said.

Omaha police recently discovered 13 headstones in an abandoned house. Three of those headstones belonged to World War II veterans with Knoxville ties.

"Apparently, several years ago, the military used a monument company in Nebraska to make headstones for military members, and the Nebraska police department is checking that out to see if they can contact them, and that actually may be where the mystery lies," said Darrell DeBusk, public information officer for the Knoxville Police Department.

DeBusk said, this week, he received phone calls from both a Nebraska-based reporter and the police department there.

Now, KPD is helping with the investigation, hoping to track down the families of the three men whose gravestones were found.

"One of the biggest battles you have is the timeframe," DeBusk said. "The most recent death was 1994. They date back to 1965, and a lot of records that were kept back then were not on computers, obviously, and lot of records never got transferred to a computer system, so it's actually meant digging into some old card files and looking back that way."

DeBusk said the first family was fairly easy to track down with the help of an area funeral home.

The family of Howard H. Biggs, a U.S. Army veteran who died in 1994, told police the gravestone never made it to Knoxville.

Officers are still searching for the family of Freeman Embree Brown Jr., a U.S. Navy veteran who died in 1989.

Meanwhile, police are working with Carmichael on her father's case.

They say both the gravestones for Biggs and Tate had ties to the Edgewood Cemetery.

Carmichael says the stone rested on her father's grave from the time of his death more than four decades ago until 1995. That's the year her mother died, and her father's stone was replaced with a larger stone engraved with both of her parents' names.

"I just assumed that the old one would be left there - we were never told, so how it got in Nebraska, we don't have a clue," Carmichael said. "It was kind of a shock when it appeared on the news."

DeBusk said, once the police in Nebraska have completed their investigation, he hopes to reunite the missing gravestones with the families of the deceased military men.

"A lot of people think, well, there's no value in these headstones, but actually, there's a lot of value," he said. "They are expensive to make, but the real value lies with the family and what they mean to those families, and that's what we want to do is to hopefully some way be able to get those back to the rightful owner."

DeBusk said a retired Knoxville police officer, who is a veteran, has volunteered to drive to Nebraska and return the stones to Knoxville, but he may need some donated gas money to help.

It's a delivery Carmichael is looking forward to, knowing she will then be able to add one more story to her late father's legacy.

"We'll have something to pass down to the other kids for sure," she said. "I'm sure he'd be proud to know his tombstone has been around a little trip and hopefully back home."




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