Missing Gravestone Returned to Resting Place

Four Southbury women worked together to uncover the mystery behind a missing gravestone and returned it to its rightful resting place.

It all started in October, when a neighbor donated the headstone to Marilyn Muratori-Jarvis, the town's Animal Control Officer, for her Halloween display.  "I looked at it.  I saw the young man, Daniel Riley, was in the service and all of a sudden I almost felt guilty.  I said I really would like to see this get back to him," said Muratori-Jarvis.

Muratori-Jarvis contacted the Southbury Town Clerk, Ginger Salisbury, to see if there was any way to use town records to figure out who Daniel Riley was and where he was buried.  All they knew from his headstone was his birthdate, his date of death, and that he served in World War II.  "I said, well, we could look it up and see if it's in our records and if it's not, we can call the state," said Salisbury.

Deputy Town Clerk Lynn Dwyer did most of the research.  She came up empty searching Southbury records, so she then contacted the State and learned that Daniel Riley died in Hartford in February 1974.  From there, she was able to track down his death certificate on file with the City of Hartford.  The document listed Riley's funeral home.  Officials there were able to tell her he was buried in the Northwood Cemetery in Hartford. 

Dwyer then contacted the caretaker of Northwood Cemetery, who looked through cemetery records.  "About four days later he called back and said, 'Yes, there was a Daniel.  I found where he was buried and his stone is missing,' and so we decided we were gonna return it," said Dwyer.

Muratori-Jarvis, Dwyer, and assistant town clerks Sue Shpunt and Rosemary Abdella planned a trip to Hartford to return the gravestone.  During their visit, they said an Irish Blessing, sang "Danny Boy," and toasted Daniel Riley with Irish Whiskey.  They also placed four flags at his gravesite to mark the location until the stone is repaired.

"It was around Veterans Day that it all came to be so it was like bringing him home and making him whole again," said Shpunt.

They still wonder how the gravestone ever ended up in Southbury, and hope to have an answer to that question someday.  For now, they take comfort knowing Daniel Riley is at peace.

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