Stolen Old City Cemetery tombstone found after 26 years

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POSTED: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 4:26pm

UPDATED: Friday, March 14, 2014 - 1:59pm

Imagine having a valuable possession stolen more than 26 yeasrs ago and just now getting a call that it's been found.

That's exactly what happened to Brownsville Historical Association director Gene Fernandez today when the Brownsville Permits Department contacted him after discovering something peculiar in a house they were demolishing:

"I was in my office at the museum and I received a call from building inspections saying that they had a tombstone in their possession and it was in a private residence," said Fernandez.

And because Old City Cemetery has received it's fair share of crime and vandalism over the years, Fernandez assumed it belonged to a random plot:

"And in my mind I was thinking, all right because I've got some pet projects," said Fernandez. "Now, which one of the missing tombstones that I'm dearly looking for is it going to be?...I never thought in my wildest dreams that it be my great uncle."

The tombstone belonged to Clarence Personius, a Brownsville pioneer and a World War I veteran. But the finding of his tombstone was truly a shock:

"In my ten years with the cemetery, with the museum, I've never seen the return of one," said Fernandez. "This is like a blessing, like falling from the heavens, that this thing came back upon us, I never would've though it."

If you happen to stumble upon a gravestone or piece of one, Fernandez has an urgent piece of advice:

"Please call me," said Fernandez. "Please contact me at the Old City Cemetery center, the museum and we will, no questions asked, we will go pick up, retrieve the piece, and bring it back to its setting, because there are numerous spots around the cemetery that this type of thing happened to." 

And for the vandals thinking of stealing from the cemetary for some interior decoration, think again:

"I just installed a downlink in my office for cameras, so we no longer have them going into hard drive storage, we have real time viewing," said Fernandez. "So we've got a camera there, we've got a camera there. We've got six of them all together." 

Reporting in Brownsville, Marty Watson, KVEO News Center 23. 

Comments News Comments

This is great coverage by KVEO, in that it turned this incident into a Public Service Announcement perspective to actually inform the public that there is solid attention being directed to our historic city cemetery to preserve this asset, and that there is a surveillance system in place to deter any would-be thieves.

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