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Military grave markers found in abandoned funeral home

Chris Farley, U.S. Navy veteran and National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) caretaker, visits the resting place of his parents at the NMCP Nov. 28, 2015, in Honolulu. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal) (Photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal)

Around 125 bronze and marble military grave markers are at the Richmond County Coroner’s Office after being found in an abandoned funeral home.

A Richmond County Marshal’s Office deputy found the markers covered by old blankets and trash in the garage of the old Dent’s Funeral Home on D’Antignac Street on May 18 while assisting the Augusta Land Bank Authority, which owns the property. Coroner Mark Bowen said an investigation has begun.

“It is hard to say right now why these markers are here. I don’t know. I don’t know if they were paid for and didn’t put them out,” he said. “I don’t know if they weren’t paid for and didn’t, but they are all military markers, so I’m assuming they were paid for by the military and just wasn’t placed on the grave.”

Once the deputy found the markers, Bowen was contacted and the markers were moved to his office Monday.

“We were able to get them moved over here to my office so we can start compiling a list of the names and seeing if we can find out where these folks are buried and if they got a marker on their grave,” Bowen said.

Some of the markers date to 1969 and are for veterans from different wars. Each has the person’s name, rank, date of birth and date of death inscribed.

Bowen said they were already able to find one grave site in the area that didn’t have a marker.

“I found out that person had died in 1999 and still does not have a marker on his grave. I’m able to take that marker and put it on that grave,” Bowen said.

He hopes the majority of them are from the area, since it was a local funeral home.

The Richmond County Marshal’s Office, district attorney’s office and sheriff’s office are working the investigation from different angles, Bowen said. For him, it is sad to see those who served and died not be properly recognized at their grave sites.

“I’m heartbroken,” Bowen said. “It is a sad situation when you have veterans or military people that served our country that died and you don’t even complete the job you are supposed to by placing a marker on a grave. We don’t know why they weren’t placed.”

According to Augusta Chronicle archives, Dent’s Funeral Home was founded in 1888 and was the city’s oldest black-owned funeral home. It moved to the 900 block of D’Antignac Street in 1900. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The state Department of Revenue closed it in 2009 after it repeatedly failed to pay sales taxes owed to the state and the county, The Chronicle reported. The former owner, Thomasina Ketch, died of natural causes in 2014.


© 2019 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)

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