Mystery Solved

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 9:50am

Dying vet tracks down grave that's home to tombstone dumped on his lawn.

A veteran dying of cancer determined to find the answer to a more than 20-year-old mystery finally received some answers Sunday.

Years ago a heavy reminder of one woman's life and death showed up right outside Earnest Luttrell's Jacksonville, Florida door and time to return it to its rightful owner was ticking away.

"It's stuck with me and stuck with me," he said. "No answers whatsoever."

It's a headstone for a Mattie L. Metcalf, born June 8, 1872, died October 19, 1930.

The square, heavy piece of marble has troubled Luttrell for two decades.

"Just about every day or every other day, I think about that headstone," said Luttrell. "There's somebody out there that deserves a headstone that doesn't have it."

The gravestone was left by some mischievous teenagers.

For a long time, Luttrell thought it was just a concrete block the teens dropped outside his home.

"I finally came out here and scraped it up and it was a headstone," he said.

Since that discovery, he's been searching, asking neighbors and even putting up flyers to find out who Metcalf is.

Luttrell said time was of the essence.

He has cancer and said he's not sure how much longer he will be around, so the stone was a priority.

"It's on my list to get that stone to who it belongs to," said Luttrell.

After seeing Luttrell on television, James Metcalf of St. Augustine came forward.

He is Mattie Metcalf's grandson.

He never met his grandmother because she died before he was born.

"She got cancer and passed away. She had 10 children," said Metcalf.

For all these years, Luttrell worried that since he had the headstone, it was missing from Mattie's gravesite.

It turns out that Mattie, whose real name was Martha, has shared a headstone at Arlington Park Cemetery with her husband Ellis since 1953.

"So they would be side by side," said Metcalf.

Metcalf met with Luttrell Sunday to talk about the whole situation.

Metcalf now has the old headstone in his possession and plans to speak with other family members to determine what should be done with it.

"What's really heartwarming is to help out the problem that Luttrell had of wanting to find out where it belonged," said Metcalf.

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