But the World War II veteran’s gravestone isn’t in a national cemetery. A county code enforcement agent found it Wednesday beneath a rusted guardrail near Short Street in an Oxford trailer park Wednesday.
No one seems to know how it got there.
“It’s a military marker so it deserves to be put back,” said David Pirritano, the code enforcement officer who found the stone. “I don’t know how his marker ended up there. I don’t think he was buried there. Maybe it was misplaced there.”
Miles away among the acres of grave sites at Edgemont Cemetery in Anniston, there is another marker. It bears the same name as the one found in Oxford, the same birth and death dates. The man buried beneath it lies next to his wife, Jewell M. Ashley, their heavy granite headstones joined by a marker engraved with their last name. It was placed there in 1983, at the time of her death, more than two decades after her husband died.
The couple might well have lived in Anniston at one time, for according to the City Directory for 1940, a John D. and Jewell Ashley lived at 2105 Moore Ave. “John D.” was a molder at a local foundry.
The first marker, the one found in Oxford, was likely removed from the site at Edgemont when the new headstone was placed there decades after John Daniel Ashley’s passing, said Joe McCarson, cemetery supervisor. Why the original ended up at the Oxford mobile home park is unknown to McCarson.
“It could have been that it was discarded,” said
McCarson, who plans to retrieve the stone and place it at the foot of Ashley’s grave.
In about 20 years of serving as the caretaker at Edgemont, McCarson has only learned of displaced gravestones twice, both this year. In the first occurrence, a marker was discovered in Cherokee County. That marker was also replaced with a newer marker at the cemetery. In that case, the family opted not to retrieve the older one.
In this case, McCarson plans to use obituary records to try to track Ashley’s family down so they can retrieve it from the grave site, if they’d like. That might not be an easy task.
Attempts by The Star to reach the Ashleys’ children Wednesday weren’t successful. A call to a John Ashley in Oxford revealed the number had been disconnected. A second call, to what appeared to be another of his children, was to a wrong number. An attempt to reach a daughter who lived in Huntsville at the time of her mother’s passing was unsuccessful.
If none of them comes forward, McCarson said, the stone will remain at the foot of Ashley’s grave.