When Tantallon resident Barb Conrad caught a glimpse of the television news last week, it didn’t take her long to ask someone to turn up the volume.
She’d seen an image of a grave plaque, and realized it might belong to her grandfather. She then heard that someone was looking for his relatives.
That person was retired RCMP staff sergeant Thomas Lowe, a member of the RCMP Veterans’ Association of Nova Scotia. One of his duties is to identify and maintain the grave sites of retired members.
While visiting Halifax’s Mount Olivet cemetery and chatting with the graveyard’s superintendent about two years ago, Lowe discovered John F. Kelly, buried under a simple stone that stated his name and year of birth (1901) and death (1933).
Kelly had been an RCMP officer at the time of his death, which entitled him to a regimental headstone. Lowe was determined to track down Kelly’s descendants for a rededication service.
When the RCMP’s media relations department got involved last week, it didn’t take long for the emails to start coming in.
“They (Kelly’s descendants) had no idea this search was going on,” Lowe said.
Lowe and Conrad met late last week. Conrad also met up with her first cousin Carol Murphy, whom she hadn’t seen in decades. They now plan to reconnect.
Conrad is coordinating efforts to get as many family members as possible to attend a grave rededication, likely at the end of the summer.
“I’m just absolutely delighted. I really wanted something on the ground so people looking at this grave in the years to come will know (he served),” Lowe said. “It’s about 80 years late, but we’re doing it.”
Although Conrad’s grandfather died 30 years before she was born, she knew he’d served with the RCMP. She’s grateful for Lowe’s efforts.
“I think it’s wonderful to spend your retirement doing this, to be so dedicated to do something like this,” she said. “And I think it will open a whole new chapter in our lives for us (family) to keep in contact.”
Another surprise for Conrad was learning late last week that her next door neighbour and close friend of 13 years is also related to her through John F. Kelly.
“I told Tom (Lowe) that I’ll try to get as many of us together as possible for the ceremony, and now that might even involve my neighbours and friends next door,” she said. “It’s really quite amazing.”