Visiting cemeteries and searching for tombstones can sometimes lead to unexpected surprises.
Last May, my husband and I took a ride across the United States. Our intended destination was Nauvoo, Illinois. While we were traveling east through Iowa on I-80, I asked my husband how far he thought Creston, Iowa was off the beaten path. This is the town where my father was born, and my grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents had lived most of their lives.
We stopped at a rest stop and looked at the map, and discovered the next turn off would lead us into Creston, Union County, Iowa. We decided to live on the edge and take a side trip into Creston. I knew most of my ancestors were buried in Graceland Cemetery. We stopped and asked directions to the cemetery at what we thought was the post office, but was actually a renovated building turned into a shopping destination.
We reached Graceland Cemetery within five minutes of getting directions. As we drove in the front entrance, I immediately recognized the name of Ed Konkler and his wife Mary on the first headstone in our line of sight. I knew additional relatives were buried in the cemetery, but had no idea where they might be located. It was a rather large cemetery and walking the entire cemetery would have taken hours.
A gardener working in the cemetery noticed I was trying to get into the chapel, which I mistook for the sexton’s office. He pointed me down towards a green shed and told me someone there could help me locate graves. My husband and I walked in and noticed a large map on one wall and metal filing cabinets against a side wall. A kind young man came out and was very eager to help. He asked what names I was researching and I told him Konkler.
He gave me an odd look, and said “There is guy back here working on his car with the last name Konkler. His car just happened to break down this morning out in front of the cemetery so we towed him back here to help him with his car. Wait right here.”
Sure enough, we were related. His grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers. Needless to say, I went in search of tombstones and found a live relative!