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A final resting place for mysterious grave marker

POSTED: February 27, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Charles L. Hagood already was at Derrell Clark's house when I pulled into the driveway.

Hagood, the only living child of the late Rev. D.L. and Edna Hagood, visited the spot in Clark's garden where he'd planted the memorial marker bringing us together.

He confirmed much of what I discovered and wrote about previously in my last two columns.

Hagood's brother, Delma Lyman Hagood Jr., was stillborn in an Athens hospital July 31, 1934. He was buried the same day in the cemetery next to Boggs church, where his father was the minister.

The Hagoods lived nearby until they moved to serve the Methodist conference at churches throughout North Georgia. Ultimately, they settled in Atlanta and retired.

When the couple bought family plots in the city's Westview Cemetery, they relocated the remains of their first child. Charles Hagood, who followed his father into ministry, explained.

"My dad was very well-organized," he said. "He always talked about how his namesake was over there (at Boggs), where he didn't know anyone anymore."

It's unclear what happened to the marker after the infant Hagood was moved to Westview in 1979. There would have been no need to transfer his original stone, because the Atlanta cemetery requires markers in that section be made with bronze materials.

Somehow Hagood's headstone ended up in fill dirt dumped in Clark's Bogart yard. He felt wrong about trashing the marker and planned to research its background. But one project after another kept the retired veterinary professor from the task.

I nosed my way in from there. Neither man seemed to mind as we compared notes in Clark's living room. They knew I wanted to write about the journey somehow.

Of course, Hagood had been surprised by it all, beginning with Clark's call explaining his unusual possession.

Another surprise for Hagood was my contact with the Rev. William H. Ruff, who had buried his stillborn twins next to Hagood Jr. in 1964. "Bill Ruff was at my dad's funeral," he said. "I remember thinking it was so nice of him to come."

Methodist ministers and leaders seem to be a close lot. They keep up with one another, and church issues.

Former president of LaGrange College, Hagood talked about the dilemma facing many Georgia churches. Whereas congregations once nurtured burial grounds, today's churches prefer distance from attached cemeteries. Land use and management are among the reasons.

As it turned out, Hagood is tied to a similar cemetery just over the Hall County line, between Braselton and Buford. Known as Sardis United Methodist Cemetery, the graveyard is attached to a Korean mission of a slightly different name.

Hagood and his wife will be buried there. In the meantime, a special marker now holds their places. It's the original stone that belonged to the brother he never knew, Delma Lyman Hagood Jr.

Clark and Hagood relocated the stone, garden to graveyard. It serves as an honorarium only and will be destroyed when Charles Hagood dies, he said.

I visited the marker along with my husband and son. The story had unfurled over many months before he was born, also in July.

The whole experience made me realize how every day turns over fresh revelations about Georgia's people, places and possessions of the past.

But the journeys taken, and discoveries made, truly enrich the living.

Erin Rossiter is a reporter for The Times whose columns appear on Sunday's Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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