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Unsolved: The case of the discovered tombstone

"If it's supposed to be in a Tonawanda cemetery, how did it end up in Angola, NY?"

ANGOLA, N.Y. — This week's Unsolved is not about a crime, but rather a mystery in Western New York. The tombstone of a local war hero was found in the sand of an Angola beach. 

"Every single day we walk to each point," said Jenna Barney, who lives near Sturgeon Point.

Barney and her family walk the shores of Lake Erie searching for beach glass and picking up litter frequently.

Her mother, Sharen Trembath is the Lake Erie coordinator for the Great Lakes Beach Sweep. During her clean up efforts, Trembath has found some strange things wash up on the shore.

"We have found parachutes," she said. "We've found a Coast Guard battery, we've found a gun, we've found blow-up dolls, we've found all kinds of stuff you can imagine."

However, in all of her years of walking those shores, she never thought someone would come across a tombstone.

"My friend, who is one of our volunteers gave me a call and said you're not going to believe this but we found a tombstone down near, next to Bennett Beach," said Trembath.

The headstone of World War II veteran Elmer Rudolph was found in the sand on the shore.

"My husband went down with the tractor and scooped up Rudolph and brought him home," she continued. "It's a tombstone, it's something that should be in a cemetery that either washed away or got moved we're not real sure how it ended up on the beach."

Barney began doing research on Rudolph and his history in the service but didn't turn up much.

"He's a local hero with a Bronze Star. How is it that we don't know who he is and I can't find anything about him, but he's a local hero," said Barney.

A Facebook post garnered a lot of interest. Someone found Rudolph's obituary online which said he was buried in Elmlawn Cemetery in Tonawanda in 1969.

"If it's supposed to be in a Tonawanda cemetery how did it end up in Angola, NY?" said Barney. "I think someone moved it," Trembath added.

The family says they have contacted everyone they can think of to try and solve this mystery including the American Legion, Elmlawn Cemetery, and local representatives.

"We have Senator Jacobs office looking into it, we have the Military Order of the Purple Heart looking into it, so we'll find it," said Trembath.

When they learn more about this local hero, they want to honor him.

"I want a ceremony," she said. "I want to have a ceremony for him."

Credit: WGRZ

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