Will County sheriff’s deputies seek to return gravestone to little girl’s grave
By BRIAN STANLEY Bstanley@stmedianetwork.com October 30, 2012 3:52PM
John Dean, funeral director for Hack Funeral Home, displays an 1891 headstone for Hattie J. that Will County Sheriff's police are trying to determine which cemetery it came from as seen Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, at 753 Hodges St. in Beecher. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:39PM
They don’t always work the graveyard shift, but a few Will County sheriff’s deputies recently spent their extra time searching area cemeteries so someone can rest in peace.
Hattie J. Prescott was 1 year, 8 months and 8 days old when she died on June 18, 1891. Police don’t expect to learn why her headstone was found near some railroad tracks 120 years later.
But they want to find out where she’s buried and put the marker back.
“That’s the mystery,” Lt. Mark Rojkowski said. “Even after a century this child was someone’s loved one. That’s sacred ...we want to show some respect.”
Richard Stone found the gravestone last year under a utility pole while he was walking by the railroad tracks west of Balmoral Park Racetrack near Crete-Monee Road.
Ron Stone, Richard’s brother, said the marker couldn’t have been there too long without being noticed.
“We go by there every once in a while and there will be kids going up and down along the tracks riding four-wheelers,” he said.
Richard Stone brought the headstone back to their garage and told his brother he wanted to find the grave it came from. But the Internet, a Crete historian and county records were unable to provide any clues.
“It’s important. I don’t care how long someone’s gone. I’d want my daughter’s headstone put back,” Ron Stone said.
On Oct. 15, Richard Stone called police to turn over the stone.
Rojkowski was on vacation when a deputy took possession of the gravestone.
“But I couldn’t help checking my e-mail, and the first thing I thought when I saw this was Sgt. Brad Jerkatis should handle it,” Rojkowski said.
Before becoming a deputy, Jerkatis engraved headstones, plus the concern he’s shown on the job made him the right man for the case, Rojkowski said.
In early August, about 50 gravestones were found toppled from their foundations and broken at Evergreen Hills Cemetery in Steger. While the vandals weren’t caught, Jerkatis arranged for surveillance equipment to be donated to prevent it from happening again.
For Hattie’s stone, Jerkatis and Rojkowski met with caretakers and walked through several local cemeteries looking for other Prescotts.
Jerkatis was also unable to find living Prescotts in the Crete-Beecher-Steger area, Hattie’s grave in any national database or a burial recorded with a local church.
“He even did a search of the area with satellite photos on Google Earth to see if there was an old (closed) cemetery we’d missed,” Rojkowski said.
One caretaker noted even though Hattie’s marker is the type of stone used in the late 19th century, it may have been protected from the elements near a larger marker.
You can still easily read Hattie was the daughter of W.H. and Maggie Prescott and the inscription “She was too good, too gentle and fair to dwell in this cold world of care.”
Jerkatis’ next step has been calling Springfield to review state records. John Dean of Hack Funeral Home in Beecher is also checking into the headstone’s origin.
“It could be a family stone from (a burial) on private property in the area, which could be done at the time,” Dean said. “If that’s the case it’d be very difficult to locate.”
Dean now has Hattie’s marker at the funeral home. If he and Jerkatis are unable to find where it came from, Dean will have the stone placed at a local cemetery.
“That’s some good out of this, but I’d really like to find it,” Rojkwoski admitted. “I can’t understand why you go destroy where someone’s loved one is buried. This was a baby. It’s disrespectful.
“We just want to get her back where she belongs,” he said.
Anyone with information on the Hattie Prescott grave marker can e-mail Jerkatis at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rojkowski at email@example.com.