Headstone discovered at Kanab construction site

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KANAB, Utah -- Construction crews made an unnerving discovery recently while excavating for a new drug store in downtown Kanab -- a headstone.

Mel Mognett is the lead contractor on the United Drug Store project. He said he’d heard rumors of a grave behind a neighboring building, but was shocked to actually find a headstone.

“We walked back to look and we couldn’t see it,” Mognett said. “Then I pulled up a piece of carpet and the headstone was underneath that carpet.”

The headstone bore the name Earnest Donald Briggs, A World War II veteran. The placement of the stone led Mognett to think it was a grave, but local mortician Jeff Mosdell said that’s not the case.

“As near as we can tell, this gentleman passed away in 1979,” Mosdell said. “That’s two years before we bought the mortuary, so it was the previous mortuary.”

Mosdell said research showed Briggs was buried in Page, Ariz., and has a headstone, but the dates are slightly different.

Mosdell said the most likely explanation is when the government sent Brigss’ family his headstone with information from their records, wrong information. It seems Briggs lied about his birth date to get into the military.

“So they requested a new headstone, with the correct information, and replaced the headstone that was there,” Mosdell said. “The old headstone is just given to the mortuary or the cemetery to dispose of.”

Mosdell said it happens more often than people realize.

He said in the last 30 years they’ve been in business, he’s had between 15 and 20 erroneous headstone to take care of. Those incorrect markers are often used as pavers, turned upside down.

Mosdell doesn’t blame people for getting spooked, but said they checked with family and the Page cemetery to make sure there’s nothing else there.

“This gentleman does have a headstone on his grave,” Mosdell said. “We double checked that. It’s just an extra headstone that didn’t need to be used.”

The city removed the stone and hopes to find a place for it at the local museum.

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