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WWII veteran's headstone found on the side of the road in Eden

Posted at 11:06 AM, Oct 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-14 12:54:50-04

Route 75 in Eden brought two separate lives together, after a tombstone of a World War II veteran was found on the side of the road. Now, Lackawanna resident Rick Giermata is making it his mission to find Frank Rowan Jr.'s family. 

He says Private First Class Rowan, who was enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, is buried more than 1,000 miles away, in Tallahassee, Florida. 

"I don't know why we crossed paths - I don't know why it was in the spot that it was at the time to receive the stone," said Giermata. "It's creepy and cool at the same time."

The granite headstone landed in the hands of Giermata Wednesday afternoon, and since then, he's been trying to find the story, and the family, behind the mystery man.

"I just felt that if this was my headstone, long after I'm gone or a relatives headstone, I would want it returned to me and at least investigated as to why it was on the side of the road," said Giermata. "So it was very important to me and I took it personal that I needed to know the story of the stone."

7 Eyewitness News spoke to officials at the cemetery division from the City of Tallahassee, who tell us this is a duplicate stone. The actual one still stands where Private Rowan has been buried since 1990.

They added that the stone found on the side of the road is probably one that didn't fit the standards or regulations of the cemetery, and was most likely bought by a gravel company.

"A lot of people buy these for windowsills," said Giermata. "They reuse them but seeing that is a veteran - a World War II veteran, I decided we would try and contact the family to see if they would like to reclaim it, because I wouldn't like it to be made into windowsills."

The cemetery also says they have no family records under his name.

If you or anyone you know has more information regarding the stone, you can call Post #63 in Lackawanna, New York at 716-825-0622.