A Johnston County man proudly served his country in the US Army before being discharged. Leon Burtis Blizzard of Selma then went to work for the NC Department of Corrections. Leon died in 1996 at the young age of 53. He was buried beside his wife, Francis, who died in 1976 at the age of only 29.
Blizzard’s grave at the Price Cemetery on Pine Level-Selma Road near Selma was marked with a granite marker paid for by the Veterans Administration.
His daughter, Ruth Griffin, who now lives in Trenton, NC made a trip from Jones County to Johnston County on Friday to visit the gravesites of her parents. She was shocked to find her father’s footstone missing. In its place fresh dirt.
Griffin said she doesn’t know what happened to her father’s grave marker. If it was an accident, Griffin said it appears there were signs to cover it up because of fresh dirt being put in its place. Regardless, she says she should have been notified by someone.
“They should have alerted someone,” Griffin said on Mondayspeaking from her home in Trenton.
She also has a message for the person who removed the marker. “What if this was your mother, father, brother, sister? What if this was your parents grave? You wouldn’t like it.”
The Veterans Administration originally paid for the marker when it was placed in the cemetery 21 years ago. Griffin said the VA has agreed to pay for a replacement marker but not the installation.
After hearing about her plight, John Keene with Keene Memorials in Four Oaks offered to install the replacement marker at no cost when it arrives. “Yes, we’ll be glad to help her,” Mr. Keene told WTSB Newson Monday.
Griffin doesn’t want to see anyone go to jail for the incident but she does want someone to accept responsibility and at the very least apologize to her and her family.
She thinks a piece of heavy equipment might have been working on a nearby grave and accidentally backed over her father’s marker. She suspects it broke into pieces and the person removed all the pieces and covered up the spot with dirt.
“If it was an accident there was an attempt to cover it up.”
“Ever who done it should have to pay the cost to replace it. I don’t want the money, but they should have to pay to replace it.”
Anyone with information about the missing grave marker from the Price Cemetery on Pine Level-Selma Road is asked to contact the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office at 919-989-5000.
In the meanwhile, Griffin says she is completing the paperwork for a replacement marker from the VA. She hope it can arrive in time to help mark the spot where her father is laid to rest before Christmas Day.