Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Aug 04th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Written in Stone

ae_toumbLocal tombstone is found on a Water Department outing
It started out just like any other day. Gary LeVa took off from his home in Watsonville and went to work for the City of Santa Cruz Water Department. Oftentimes, his days are spent crunching along gravel and hiking through grass, trying to find hidden water meters to read, replace or maintain. Over the years working in this business, he’s found all sorts of hidden treasures on job sites—spiders, pennies, bottles and the like. But this day in December 2010 was a very different type of day, with a very different finding. On this day, he was sent up to the Graham Hill area for a maintenance call on a water meter.

He started digging around in the dirt on the road near a telephone pole. Down the street was a home. “I got my stick and I heard this thud, and it didn’t sound right, so I started moving the dirt,” LeVa says. At the time, it was baffling because he figured this was where the water meter would be, but whatever was under the ground didn’t sound at all like a meter. As he continued to kick aside more dirt he was able to make out some letters. “This isn’t right,” he says about searching for the meter. But with an “aw heck, why not” approach, he continued to dig and soon realized it wasn’t a meter—it was a tombstone.

“I stuck my bar under it, lifted it up, and dug around it,” he says. When he lifted it up he found a flattened coke can from the early ’60s or ’70s. According to the writing on the tombstone, the deceased, Norbert C. Mihelitch died in 1966, so LeVa presumed the tombstone, and its flattened coke can underneath had been sitting there for nearly a half a century.

The two-feet by 14-inch wide, by seven-inch thick rock weighed about 125 pounds. “I’m a treasure hunter, an urban archaeologist,” LeVa says about his finding. And so, he couldn’t help but wonder: What was it doing there? It certainly didn’t belong on the side of a road. So he put it in his truck and sat with it through January and tried to figure out the story behind it, how it got there, who was Mihelitch, and what in the world he was going to do with the tombstone. He figured the most important thing was to get the memorabilia to a descendant of the deceased.

And so he began his journey. At first he started with Parks and Recreation as he was told someone there might have knowledge of local gravesites. His contact there referred him to the Museum of Art & History. They referred him to the Santa Cruz Library where he talked to someone in the genealogical department. That person worked on tracking down information, and then referred LeVa to Bob Nelson, a local who deals with genealogical research with veterans. A call came in from the library suggesting that he try the Holy Cross Cemetery as there were some names there that matched the tombstone. LeVa visited the cemetery and found a family plot for Norbert C. Mihelitch and some of his relatives. What he realized at this point was that the tombstone that he had discovered was an extra tombstone of sorts, given as a military honor when someone dies. So, in essence Norbert C. Mihelitch had two gravestones. One at Holy Cross, and the other was the one that LeVa found. Upon further research, he was eventually put in touch with Mark Mihelitch of Walnut Creek, the grandson of Norbert.

“I was bouncing up and down like a little kid at Christmas,” says LeVa about the phone call with Mark. “I wanted to give it back, and with the things he said, I knew it belonged to his family.”

It won’t be long before Mark picks up the tombstone from LeVa in Watsonville, where LeVa has been keeping it safe for the Mihelitch family. As for how it showed up in the Graham Hill area, that’s another story all together and one that no one quite knows the answers to. “I think it was in the yard of my cousins who used to live in that neighborhood,” Mark says. He’s guessing that when his grandfather died that the military-issued gravestone went to members of his family. “Fast forward 45 years and I get this call,” Mark says.

Mark was about 7 when his grandfather Norbert died, and he had fond memories of spending time at Norbert’s home as a child. “I want to make sure we do the right thing,” Mark says, of honoring his family, his grandfather, and this tombstone. It’s a lovely story, written in stone.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Health Screening

Santa Cruz wellness expert releases app to improve workplace well-being

 

Leo Sun; Full Moon, Venus Retro in Leo; Saturn Direct

It’s a complex week of planetary movements, challenges, demands and callings. We’re in the time of the Leo Sun. Leo—fixed fire, gold, the heart, generous, strong, noble, the king/queen—needs appreciation and praise from everyone in order to move forward. During Leo we gain a greater sense of self-identification by recognizing our creativity. It’s therefore a perfect time for Venus retrograding in Leo. In Venus retrograde we review and re-assess values. Venus retro in Leo concerns our self as valuable, acknowledging talents, gifts, abilities and offerings. Friday, Venus re-enters Leo (29 degrees, a critical degree) continuing the retrograde to 14 degrees Leo on Sept. 6. Friday (Full Moon) is also the (8 degrees) Leo solar festival, Festival of the Future. Leo is the heart of the sun, the heart of all that matters. When attuned to this heart, we have understanding and inclusivity. The heart of the Lion is Mitra (think “Maitreya,” the coming World Teacher). Leo prepares humanity to receive divine love from subtle sources and later to radiate that love to the kingdoms. Sirius, Ray 2, where love originates, streams through Regulus (heart of Leo), into the heart of the sun (Ray 2) and into all hearts. The heart of Leo is Regulus. Joining Venus, the love underlying all of creation appears. Saturday is Sun/Neptune (confusion or devotion) with late night Saturn turning stationary direct. Ideas, plans and structures held long in abeyance (since March 14) slowly move forward. (Read more on Leo and the week at nightlightnews.org and Risa D’Angeles’ Facebook page, accessed through my website.)

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 31

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Holy Cannoli

New bakery opens in Ben Lomond, plus Randall Grahm’s quest to grow 10,000 new grape varieties, and Mexican cooking classes

 

Is Santa Cruz turning into Malibu North?

It's got a ways to go before it gets wrecked like Malibu, but I think we need to be very careful about growth. Maria Mattioli, Santa Cruz, Psychotherapist

 

Bargetto Winery

A much-anticipated annual event at Bargetto Winery is the release of their very special La Vita red wine. June 7 was the day to be heralded this year, and I happily squeezed my car into their overloaded car park in eager anticipation of tasting the new La Vita nectar.

 

Margaritaville

Popular Capitola spot gets new owner and complete makeover