LAKEWOOD, OH -- It started as a quest by a Lakewood homeowner to find out how the gravestone of a World War I veteran ended up in his backyard, and now Fox 8 News has helped solve the mystery.
U.S. Army Private Charles Joseph Stary served in a machine gun unit during The Great War, and his service was a source of pride for his large family on Cleveland's west side.
His great nephew, Jerry Stary, who contacted Fox 8 after watching our coverage of the headstone mystery, said "they had come from Bohemia so they were under Franz Josef when they came over, that's what they always said to us, so he's going back for America."
After the war, Charlie, as he was known, came home to Cleveland as a hero and lived a quiet productive life until his death in 1958.
Great Uncle Charlie was a distant memory for surviving members of the Stary family, until a landscaping crew found the military headstone that read “Charles Joseph Starry” in a pile of rubble in the back yard of a home in Lakewood.
The homeowner appeared on Fox 8, trying to find the soldier's family.
"And I kind of heard this name Charles and West 54th and of course, that's where my family is from so ears perked up, and then I said 'wow that sounds familiar,’" said Jerry Stary.
But he said he was confused when he saw the gravestone on TV, because the name Stary was misspelled with two r's, Starry.
However, he then watched Fox 8’s follow-up up story with a local historian, who traced Charles Stary's final resting place to West Park cemetery, where he was buried next to his brother Joseph. The historian also found the purchase order for Charlie's military headstone with the misspelled name, that was later cancelled by his sister.
Jerry Stary told Fox 8, "I can see them saying 'you know if they spelled it wrong, we don't want to put it there and since we're going to put the two brothesr together, why not make one headstone instead of two headstones, so there's some logic to it."
The Stary family has a theory about how the military stone ended up in Andrew Kruse’s backyard. Charlie had a couple of sisters who lived Lakewood, and they believe the stone may have been passed on to them as a family memento, and was then forgotten when they passed away.
On Friday, Fox 8 News was able to able to connect Charlie Stary's family with Andrew Kruse.
Upon seeing the headstone for the first time, Charlie’s great niece, Linda Stary Gulan, exclaimed, "Oh my goodness, wow!”
Linda and her brother then shared a hug with Andrew Kruse, and told him they plan to display the stone in a place that honors the memory of their Great Uncle Charlie and his service to the country.
"I wanted to end this story with a happy ending, that he had a loving family that came to bring him home,” she said.