Mystery of headstone found at Oklahoma City school now solved thanks to student detectives

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OKLAHOMA CITY - About five years ago, Special Care was expanding their property; meanwhile, a construction worker discovered a headstone mystery - now solved on Christmas Eve.

The gravestone behind Special Care in northwest Oklahoma City is tucked under tree branches.

"We have measured her gravestone in trying to figure out about her and figure out what her name was,” said Special Care student Kamiyah Jenkins.

The word 'mother,' faintly etched on it, is the sole clue. But, student detectives left no stone unturned.

"We took pictures... and got on the computer and we tried to look,” said teacher Cindy Rowan.

Rowan posted a photo last month to a neighborhood Facebook group. On Christmas Eve, the mystery was solved.

Turns out, the neighbors next door put the 100-year-old headstone there almost two decades ago when they still owned the land.

"We've been here since 1961, and that's where we buried our pets. 'Oh, let’s just set that stone under that tree,'” said neighbor Bob May.

The headstone belonged to Hattie Payne who died in 1918, LaWanda May's grandmother.

"She was short and redheaded, maybe freckled-face. She was a farm wife,” May said. "My dad was a baby when she died, and she died of the 1918 flu epidemic."

Payne is actually buried in Crescent. There's no photo of her - but the headstone was taken to their home in Oklahoma City.

"It was on her grave for years and, when they replaced it, I wanted it and so I got it," May said.

It's something that meant a lot for May and for the students who are now getting a history lesson from Payne’s family.

"She's been dead my whole life, but what the children have done here and what the school has done is brought my grandmother to life,” May said.

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