Sometimes You Succeed (or Finding My Brothers’ Graves)

My four siblings and I were born in Boulder, Colorado, back in a previous century. My older brother, Alan, died the day he was born. Do the math; I never met him. One of my younger brothers, Douglas, died three days after he was born, but I never met him, either. My older sister recalls seeing him and attending the small funeral. One of the ironies of life in the modern world is that both died of complications of an Rh-factor problem. Less than two decades later, this problem was quite manageable and reliably survivable.

My only related memory is of visiting my brothers’ graves at a small cemetery near the Boulder airport. I remember cards in plastic, marking the graves until gravestones would be installed.

We left Boulder for southeastern Idaho when I was ten. I was the first to return, and that was more that 30 years later. My parents’ recollection was that they never bought gravestones. There has been talk for some years of needing to go back to Boulder and take care of that.

My family and I were vacationing in the Denver and Colorado Springs areas several years ago, and we decided to spend a day in Boulder. I took them on a short tour of landmarks, including the home where I spent my first decade; the nearby park through which I was not supposed to walk on my way home from school, but often did; and my first elementary school, now renamed. I took some photos, then managed to lose the memory card containing them before returning home.

We went to one — or maybe it’s a hundred — of Boulder’s main attractions, the Pearl Street pedestrian mall. I left the family there and went to find the nearest cemetery to the airport, according to an online map. It was as I remembered it, including the airport’s landing pattern. My mission was to get information which would help us finally to place gravestones at my brothers’ graves and, if possible, to find the graves themselves.

It was a Sunday, and the cemetery office was closed. There wasn’t a directory or map of graves outside, and I hadn’t found anything online. I jotted down the phone number and some other information, so I could call the cemetery after I returned home. I never did.

Last summer, we went to Fort Collins for a wedding reception, and we had most of a day to wander wherever we pleased. So we wandered to Boulder. I took the family on a similar tour of prominent David Rodeback landmarks. The children are older, so they appreciated them more. I even added a stop or two to the tour, including the old home of my classmate Bryce on Euclid Avenue. I stayed at his home when my youngest brother was born, and his mother caught us in the back yard, practicing our swearing (which is something one must practice to do well). She was not amused, but, 43 years later, my family was.

path and bell tower at Mountain View Memorial Park

Path and bell tower at Mountain View Memorial Park

I left them at the Pearl Street Mall again and headed for the cemetery, called Mountain View Memorial Park. It’s a good name, but, really, there’s hardly a place in Boulder which doesn’t have a mountain view, as long as no buildings or trees are in the way. It was the view of small aircraft on final approach to the local airport which has stuck in my memory.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and the office was closed again, but this time I was smarter. I called the number on the door, and a very kind lady named Debra answered from the nearby mortuary. She looked up my brothers in their register, gave me directions for finding their graves, and offered to come help me if I had any difficulty. Difficulty was expected, given the absence of gravestones.

It was raining when I talked to her, while sitting in my car, but, by the time I drove around the perimeter to Section G, the sun was starting to peak out. I took the path toward the bell tower, as directed.

A few dozen paces up the path, as expected, I found the marker for Babyland. They bury the children in the same area, presumably to accommodate the smaller plots efficiently. I’m not sure whether it’s a happy place or a sad one. Both, perhaps, but leaning toward sad.

Babyland at Mountain View Memorial Park

Babyland at Mountain View Memorial Park

Within a few minutes, thanks to Debra’s instructions, I found my brother Douglas’s grave. I knew that my brother Alan’s grave was within 20 or 30 feet of his.

I will leave you to imagine the emotions of seeing my brothers’ graves for the first time in 38 years. These brothers, whom I have never met, were never a large part of my life, though there were a few points in my childhood and youth when I thought I would have fared much better with an older brother. One emotion was unexpected: Surprise.

Surprise at seeing a gravestone, that is.

Douglas Eugene Rodeback grave

My brother Douglas's grave

I brushed the grass clippings away and tried to wipe away the raindrops too. Then I took some pictures — not just of the gravestone, but also of the immediate area and the view from several directions, to make it easy to find again.

Finding my brother Alan’s grave took several more minutes, but I succeeded.

It had a matching gravestone. In fact, most of the graves in Babyland have similar gravestones. Some have heart-shaped stones, and a few are larger and more ornate. I took more photos.

Alan Ray Rodeback's grave

My brother Alan's grave

Out came my cell phone. I called my dad, told him I had found my brothers’ graves, was standing at one of them, and would send pictures. Then I told him there were already gravestones there, so he could cross that item off his to-do list. He was surprised, and it didn’t spark any memories, so I called Debra at the mortuary again, to see if she had any record of who had placed them there and when. She checked the files and reported that my parents had done it shortly after each burial. I called my dad back and reported this news. His memory is still good, but he still didn’t remember doing that.

I’ve generally had little success in return for the time I’ve invested in genealogical research, so it feels as if the moral to this story is, “Sometimes you succeed,” or maybe, “Sometimes it isn’t that hard.” Maybe the span of years, the matter of traveling hundreds of miles, and the little detail of succeeding the second time, not the first, combined to mean it this one really wasn’t easy. But it felt easy.

More to the point, perhaps, it felt good.

Good luck out there.

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14 Responses to “Sometimes You Succeed (or Finding My Brothers’ Graves)”

  1. D. A. Eaton says:

    I need info on Robert Randall, born in Paul Kimball Hospital, Lakewood, NJ in1931

  2. Kathrine Jenkins says:

    Reading this brought tears to my eyes and a really good feeling. Thank you for telling us your story.

  3. Linda Tucker says:

    The grave markers for your brothers showed the world that their little souls were once here. Although their lives were brief you cared enough to show their mark. Kudos to you and what a kind soul you are ! I was impressed with your nice letter of how it came to be and the caring of your father. You are indeed a sincere and thoughtful person . May God bless you and family. Sincerely Linda Tucker

  4. Sara Sellers says:

    I love this story,
    I have tried to find my maternal grandfathers grave.but doubt if I ever will. The family was poor as could be,he left my grand mother with 4 little ones,my mother the 3rd child was around 5 years old, All she remembered was the name of Church and we tried to find some records and could not. His death certicate showed the name of the Church and it is still in existence,but the old cemetery is in terrible shape.
    In my research I have also been searching on my husbands side for his great grand father’s obit or death records,but no luck yet.
    You have encouraged me to never give up.
    Thanks, Sara

  5. Myself and my family are trying to find out if our mother has died or where she is buried if this is the case. Her name is Daphne Eva May Curnow, or maybe changed to Daphne Elaine Obst. We were all adopted out as young children. Maybe you can help.

  6. Katy Nott says:

    What a wonderful story and how typical of us as human beings. We determine to do something and life gets in the way and conspires to delay things. But the emotion when we finally achieve what we set out to do is a great thing. We have a similar story in our family. My husband knew that he had had a sister, born before him, who died in childbirth, but that was all he knew. Until one day, nearly 70 years later, when he was laying some lagging in the loft of the home in which he was born and where we still live. Tucked away in a far corner under some general stuff, he found a little leather box in which was contained several pieces of paperwork relating to his father’s family, including the bill from the Undertaker for the burial of his sister. Unbelievably, she was buried in a cemetery at the bottom of the road where his daughter now lives! Doing my Sherlock thing, I made phone calls and found both the record of her burial and the plot number. Sadly, no headstone and no marker. She apparently was buried in the same plot as another lady, unknown to us, who was apparently single and who had no memorial either. That seemed to be the way things were done back then. We visited her grave on what would have been her 70th birthday and laid a wreath for her. The emotion was almost unbearable. Tears were shed, but my husband found a sincere sense of relief at finally knowing. He was an only child and would have dearly loved to have had an older sister. Needless to say, this has started a journey of discovery about his family that he knew next to nothing about and even resulted in us finding and visiting the war grave of his uncle in Ypres, who was killed in WW1.

  7. MJ Smith says:

    I am so happy you finally did succeed in finding the two youngsters gravesites.

  8. Judy Metts says:

    I Know that feeling- one of needing to mark a grave and not having the extra funds to do so,
    We lost our second child a daughter at six days old, she had been born too early and weight
    only 2 and a half pounds. I was finally able to put a marker on her grave on what would have
    been her twenty-fifth birthday. It didn’t prove anything- God always knew where she was.
    Now it is marked for the world to see,
    Malinda Faye Metts
    June 22 1969 June 28 1969
    daughter of Durant and Judy Metts

  9. Trisha Hodges says:

    Good Job! So nice to read that a brother would care enough to search and find his brothers. You will have two big hugs waiting for you in Heaven.

  10. Ethel Corduff says:

    What a sad but lovely story and such a surprise to find the gravestones. Reading it made me almost weep.
    To make a long story short my twin daughter died 20 minutes after birth the other twin surviving. Because I had a caesarean I did not see her and the twin pregnancy was undiagnosed as scans were not done then.
    I was in hospital for weeks due to complications and my husband dealt with the undertaker, there was no funeral. When \I finally got to the graveyard I was shocked to find out from the office that she was buried in a public grave with several adults and a baby.
    It was too late to do anything and I did not want the disturb her. we bought a small gravestone for it but I never got over the way the burial was done as my husband thought he was paying for an individual grave

  11. Jane Edwards says:

    I have an indepth feeling in my heart, for you and your story, oneday you could have the opportunity to reunite withe the brothers you never got to know, as I had a Bro and a sister who I never met and also a brother and a sister who passed away as well when I was very young so can’t remember them. One day I will see them again, I know.

  12. Pam says:

    Well done for your persistence . It’s an inspiration to all of us on the genealogy trail .

  13. JoAn Gauer says:

    Hello: Your message about finding your borthers’ graves reminds me of trying to find my Grandfather’s grave
    in Minneapolis, MN. I was sent with directions to a place in the cemetery where my Grandfather’s death certificate
    showed that he was buried. I kept ending up near the same place each time without finding a gravestone with
    his name on it. I saw a gravestone with a man’s name on it and the man’s date of death the same as what my
    Grandfather’s date of death was. I walked back to the cemetery office and asked if there was a way for them
    to find my grandfather’s grave by comparing it to the other man’s grave site. Sure enough, they looked up to
    find the other man’s grave stone “number” (all graves had a stone with a number on it, driven into the ground).
    Then they looked up to find my Grandfather’s grave stone number and found that my Grandfather’s grave was
    about 12 graves up from the other man’s grave. When they got close the gardener shoveled down to find the
    grave stone number and found that he was one grave short. He shoveled down on the next grave and found
    my Grandfather’s stone number! I put $100.00 down and ordered a stone for my Grandfather. I paid off the
    stone in monthly payments after I got home to Oregon. The Cemetery owner’s would not set the stone until
    I had paid for the stone in full, which was understandable. After they had set the stone on my Grandfather’s
    grave, they took a photo of it and mailed it to me. My Grandfather died in 1919. The stone was set down on
    his grave in 2007, which was 88 years after he died, but I felt so much satisfaction for having done it.

  14. Ana Haglund says:

    Happy he fine his brother grave,

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