The grave of a two-year-old child from 1943 was recently found in the Stuart area.
Mark Hedrick, who recently moved to the area from California, discovered the grave while surveying his property off of Rhody Creek Loop. He said he found the grave when he was cutting trails through the woods on his property.
“I’m up doing my thing in the woods, and I’m in the deep, treed, heavy brush wood, chopping stuff down, and I’m clearing the ground. All of a sudden, I hit something that was metal. When I picked it up it was a grave marker that had been laying down in the mud,” he said.
Hedrick said the marker was a simple metal stick with a liftable glass window for a card to be placed inside.
“This had been down in the dirt and the glass was broken. What I could read on the printed card, after I broke out a magnifying glass, was Mays Funeral Home, which used to be the funeral home in Stuart many years back,” he said.
Because only the bottom piece of the card survived, Hedrick could only make out the age and 1943 as the year of death.
Since the person he bought the house from did not know anything about the grave, Hedrick said he went to the Patrick County Administration Building to find out a list of property owners before being redirected to the Deed Office in the Patrick County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.
“What you have to do is find out who you bought the property from, and who they bought the property from. You just had to keep getting the books out,” he said.
After three hours of research, Hedrick came up with a few names and decided to look for death certificates. When he was in the Patrick County Historical Society & Museum, a volunteer suggested he look at the old newspapers housed at the Stuart site of the Blue Ridge Regional Library.
“I got the microfilm out and got the newspapers starting in 1943, January. Boom! Right off the bat I find the name Pack, and Pack was one of the names I had written down on my paper” from researching deeds, he said.
Hedrick said the Pack family had lost a two-year-old to influenza, according to the newspaper story, which added that the child had been buried near the home. Despite feeling like this was “a game changer,” he decided to go through the rest of the newspapers for 1943 to see if he could find anything else.
He found another obituary for a two-year-old, but the burial information did not match the grave marker, “so, that sent me back to the original that I found,” he said.
In the obituary in the paper, Hedrick said the toddler’s father was listed as James Pack. He found the mother’s name, Irene Pack, by going through a DNA website. His brother’s name was Marvin Pack and his sister’s names were listed as Sarah Jane Pack and Shirley Gene Pack.
Hedrick said if the sisters were older, they would be in their 80s.
“I have a buddy that lives up on the hill next to me, and he’s 88-years-old. He told me he went to school with a Sarah Jane. I said, ‘well if you went to school right here in Stuart, that has to be her,” he said.
Aside from that, Hedrick has received no leads even though he’s asked around town if anyone knew the family.
“Nobody seems to remember them. Of course, they’d have to be in their 80s also to have gone to school with them or anything,” he said.
Hedrick said he wants to let the family know he found the grave and see if they had any interest in visiting it. “I think if it was my family I’d want to know,” he said.