The Grave Under the Mulberry Tree
For more than 70 years, a solitary grave under a lonely mulberry tree in Willoughby Cemetery simply read: "Girl in Blue. Killed By Train. December 24, 1933. Unknown, But Not Forgotten." The ground around the grave is littered with dimes and pennies in remembrance of this unknown victim of tragedy.
In 2004, the "Girl In Blue" received an additional headstone, stating her name - Josephine Klimczak.
This is Josephine's story, after leaving a boarding house on Third Street in Willoughby on Christmas Eve morning, the 22-year-old Klimczak was killed by a New York Central passenger train near where Industrial Parkway is today.
Two days earlier, she had been kicked off a streetcar in Kirtland, after failing to pay her fare. The only clue to Klimczak's identity was in the purse she was carrying, which contained 90 cents and a railroad ticket to Corry, Pa.
Because she was wearing a blue woolen dress and blue shoes, she was from then on known as "The Girl in Blue." Her body was taken to the former Jim McMahon Funeral Home, where she was laid out for two weeks. More than 3,000 residents visited to pay their respects and see if they could identify her.
Willoughby residents raised $60 for a headstone, and the Girl in Blue was laid to rest in Willoughby Cemetery in a plot donated by a resident. An additional $15 was placed in a city fund to ensure geraniums would be placed on the grave once a year.
Although most historians agreed the girl's name was "Sophie," her last name was the center of debate for 60 years. In December 1993, the mystery was solved when The News-Herald published an article marking the anniversary of the Girl in Blue's death. The article also ran in the Corry Evening Journal in Corry, Pa. The article was read by Pennsylvania real-estate agent Ed Sekerak, who was involved in selling the former Klimczak family farm in Spring Creek at the time.
Sekerak discovered through court records that the mystery girl was Josephine Klimczak.
Upon learning that Sekerak could confirm the identity of the Girl in Blue, Willoughby lawyer William C. Gargiulo came forward and asked that Lake County Probate Court Judge Fred V. Skok officially recognize the true identity of the girl.
Gargiulo approached the McMahon-Coyne Funeral Home in 1993 to see if a fund could be established to buy an additional tombstone listing the girl's true identity.
Kotecki Monuments offered to donate a small tombstone but money was never collected, and the additional tombstone was never put on her grave.
When The News-Herald ran a story revisiting the Girl In Blue in 2002, his son, Ed Kotecki IV, who now runs the company, said he would still be willing to donate a tombstone. The original stone was left intact.
The identity was the unknown girl was featured in Unsolved Mysteries, and even today many people visit the grave.
The mystery remains as to why young Josephine left her home penniless, and no efforts were made by her family to find her when they never heard from her again.
Source - News-Herald
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Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer