You may not know this about your hero (that would be me), but I had to earn money to pay for college (fire up, Chips!). Yup, it’s true. College wasn’t a gift my parents paid for. There were some academic scholarships, some student loans, some financial assistance and my paychecks from working four summers at Lakeview Cemetery, at the ever-lovin’ corner of Dixie Highway and White Lake Road.
I dug that job.
Any way, so image if you will how my curiosity was piqued this past April, when I saw, on Page 1 of The Clarkston News, inside a shaded, light blue box, this headline: Mystery at Lakeview Cemetery. To say I was excited to read about a “mystery” on the grounds I know so well, would have been an under statement.
And, then I read:
“Workers at Lakeview Cemetery called the Oakland County Sheriff’s office after unearthing human bones near the back, in a spot with no record of burials, 11:11 a.m., April 3 . . .”
AWESOME, thought I. I love mysteries, cemeteries and weird news. Still interested, I continued reading.
“The bones, which formed only a partial skeleton, appeared to have been there for quite some time, said Lt. Larry Perry, Independence Substation commander.
“Deputies called the county Medial Examiner, who collected and transported the bones to headquarters in Pontiac for examination and documentation.
“The incident remains under investigation.”
What? Did I miss something? Wait, there was one paragraph left in the story.
“Lakeview Cemetery was established in 1850, 18 years after Clarkston was founded . . .”
Wow! What a tease, I so-o-o-o wanted more! I wanted pictures of where the skeleton was unearthed with the dudes who found them bones. My sense of irony was exploding from my head — mystery bones found in a cemetery? Who woulda’ thunk it!
* * *
When yours truly worked at said cemetery, I was part of a crew hired during seventh hour of our senior year in high school. Mel Vaara saw us walking in the hall between class and ask the lot of us if we wanted a summer job.
We said, “Sure,” skipped seventh hour and George “Andy” Anderson, then DPW superintendent of Independence Township hired us. (FYI, Fred Ritter, the only Democrat elected to office in town, was township treasurer, and signed our paychecks.) For the next four summers we maintained the grounds, and equipment, as well as dug graves and interred the dead.
For each grave dug, we would dig up two dump truck loads of dirt, only to put one back in for the burial. The other load would be dumped in the back of the cemetery by Cemetery Lake (the same lake is called Middle Lake on the maps). And, it is in this area, the current day workers unearthed the mystery bones.
After reading the April news account, I made my own inquiries to Lt. Perry. He told me the bones were shipped to a forensic laboratory for deep analysis. He promised to contact me once he had more info.
Ever a man of his word, last week he e-mailed our office the intel I had long waited for.
“I’ve had a sticky note on my computer to call you since April,” he said this past Monday.
So, here’s what I got.
The partial skeleton was found along the lake, sometime before the 1970s. The folks at the MSU Forensic Anthropology Lab, determined the remains are from a child between seven and 13-years-old, with “extensive post-mortem interval of several decades and are not forensically significant.”
(I didn’t know what “post-mortem interval” meant, and looked it up. It “is the time that has elapsed since a person has died. If the time in question is not known, a number of medical/scientific techniques are used to determine it.”
* * *
So, what happened to this child? I am sure everybody will have their own ideas. My ample gut feelings tell me the child was from a poorer family. The child died, and the parents picked a spot in the cemetery that, at the time, lakeside, was picturesque and buried their child with a solemn, secret ceremony. I am gonna’ go with that because I like to think good things.
So, the mystery remains. I wonder why they couldn’t carbon date those bones? And, where the bones will find their final resting place?
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