Evergreen-Washelli, Seattle, WA, 3 October 2013—Sue Knapman dialed the number with trembling fingers. Would this be the call that would help her locate her grandfather? Back in 1920, a 26-year-old Englishman who had arrived in Seattle by way of Canada to pursue the American dream died an untimely death. Little did he suspect with his dying breath that 93 years later his only granddaughter would be standing at his resting place. Walter Eyres had come to Seattle to work for his uncle, also named Walter Eyres, but in October of that year, he’d been laid to rest in a 2-inch-thick rough box in Washelli Cemetery, his grave indicated by a simple temporary stone marker, which his aunt had purchased for a dollar.
After a lengthy 7-year search, Sue Knapman had found the grave of her grandfather, who had died almost a century earlier. Growing up in England, Susan Knapman had heard tales of her grandfather Walter Eyres, who had died tragically in a car accident in 1920. After some preliminary research proved fruitless, rather than give up, Sue sought out newspaper databases. Late one night, a reference in the Seattle Times to a car accident and funeral service led her to call Evergreen-Washelli, in Seattle, where reception put her through to a family services representative.
“Hello,” she stated as calmly as she could, “this is Susan Knapman, and I believe that my grandfather is buried in your cemetery.” A quick search of the burial database confirmed that her grandfather Walter Eyres was, indeed, buried in Section F of Washelli Cemetery. Later that day Dave Roberts, her partner of 30 years, was surprised to arrive back from his overnight railroad work at 5 AM to find Sue awake and the usually cheerful woman in tears. Greatly concerned, he rushed to her side, only to discover that she cried out of joy rather than grief.
On a trip to Calgary the next month, Sue and Dave made a trip across the Canadian countryside in a rented RV and down to Washington State, where Washelli Cemetery served as their first stop on this, their first visit to Seattle. A camera hanging from a strap around her neck, Ms. Knapman proved eager to view the spot in person. The names on the markers nearby seemed familiar to her, so often had she studied the map that the cemetery staffer had provided. Dave looked around in astonishment. It was just as they had seen on Google map on Dave’s iPhone. Sue Knapman took picture after picture. After a long and emotional visit, the two walked back to the RV for lunch. Sue lacked any appetite, but Dave insisted that she eat some soup. As she sat in the RV waiting for the soup to heat up, Dave made his way back to the gravesite. On his way, he flagged down cemetery staffer Jeremy Byer.
“May I help you?” Jeremy asked.
“Yes,” Dave replied. “I want to borrow a spade to locate a marker.”
“I’ll help you find it,” Jeremy replied, and the two traveled back to the grave of Walter Eyres. After some probing of the ground, Dave and Jeremy found the small rectangular brick marker, which had first been placed almost 93 years earlier. Jeremy reset it, and it was with relish that Dave accompanied Sue back to the grave after her soup to find the old marker, once lost, now found again—just like her long-lost grandfather. With happy tears flowing once again, she placed a small memory stone that she had purchased along the way from Calgary: “One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” And then the two headed back to Canada, Sue’s family circle and visit to Seattle now complete.