Headstone of World War II vet found behind St. Pete home

The headstone of a man who served during World War II was found behind a home in Gulfport last week. Now, after some investigative work, the headstone has been returned to its rightful spot at the Lincoln Cemetery in St. Petersburg. 

As the head of the Lincoln Cemetery Society, Vanessa Gray is at the site almost daily. She volunteers maintaining the historic cemetery which dates back to the 1920s.

“This place is very special, there's a lot of history here, it deserves to be honored,” Gray said.

Still, much of that history remains unknown, as thousands of graves there have no markers at all. Over the weekend, there was one less. The missing headstone was found 11 miles away, buried in a backyard. The owner of the home found the headstone while doing landscaping work.

“It is not ours, it belongs to somebody and we have to return everything that does not belong to us,” said Lyudmila Sytsevich.

Indeed, the headstone belonged to 27-year-old William Henry Matthews. He was a World War II veteran who died in 1952.

St. Pete police helped figure out where the missing marker belonged.

“We don’t know if it was stolen or how it came to be there,” explained Yolanda Fernandez, a St. Petersburg police spokesperson. “Our concern primarily was just to make sure it got back to the cemetery and his grave was marked again after all he was a World War II veteran.” 

Soon Matthew’s plot will be whole again, and his memory will be rightfully honored.

“Just saying his name out loud and honor him, it’s very important to us he gets the respect he deserves,” added Gray.