Valerie Wixen Thruelsen

Member for
10 years · 4 months · 20 days
Find a Grave ID


Hi Fellow FAG members...I broke my ankle on the 21st of April, am currently at a skilled nursing facility and will be here for at least 4-6 weeks. So please bear with me if I'm a little slow in my thanks and responses to requests. I appreciate all the help and support I'm receiving from everyone. There are no people like findagrave people! Ok...on to some tips...
Tenacity really pays off! Another findagraver told me that many times you have to ask twice. I know from experience working with the cemetery that I work with all the time that sometimes a little deeper digging is needed. I found out today that tenacity can really pay big dividends. A cemetery has requested that I help to find the backgrounds on people in their memorial circle...a place for unmarked graves. I've been successful with relative ease. I came across two people that were problematic because of misinformation. Someone put the first name Mildred as the owner of the cemetery plots and they put the other person as her spouse on the index card. Also, the middle initial of A. was given in the spouse's name. I couldn't find a Mildred *****, nor could I find a Russell A. ***** in any of the records I was searching. Nor could I find an obituary for either one. I did find that there was a Russell L. ***** who lived in Fallbrook (the area I'm investigating) with his mother, Lois M. *****. The M could have stood for Mildred...but I couldn't find any record with his mother's middle name. When I went to the cemetery today to let the sexton know of my findings, and that I was pretty sure based on the date of death that she'd given me for one person that these were the two I was searching for, she looked at the original receipts from 1972. Sure enough, on the receipt it showed that Mildred had bought two of them for her son (not her spouse). Apparently someone created the index card based on the receipt, and put in a middle initial that wasn't there for the son, as well as confusing the issue by labelling the son as a spouse.
A cousin of Sherman's contacted me yesterday and she's having a headstone made for him. That's WONDERFUL!!!
I found something out the hard way yesterday about obituaries so please read this because its very important. First off, findagrave does not discourage obituaries...they only ask that you edit living people out. Secondly, someone put a notation on someone's memorial to go look at the obituary in the Kansas City Star, January 13, 1942. I tried to do that. But I couldn't find it. Upon questioning the news outlets why I could not access that particular obituary, I found out that there are agreements between newspapers and and likely the others too...that obituaries are only available for a certain length of time. Then its hasta manana and you can no longer access them. Therefore, please, if you receive an obituary from me that is typed out and easy to read, post it in the bio section of the person I'm sending it for. Do not paraphrase. FACTS CANNOT BE COPYRIGHTED SO DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THAT. People will not be able to find the obit in the future.

Here's another reason to do some deep digging. The manager of the cemetery recently asked me for some assistance in finding a Frank Opperman who died in 1922. His great-great nephew called asking for the plot location. Thing was, nothing about Frank was on the cemetery map or on the directory. I did some digging, found out that Frank Opperman was a stage and screen (silent films) actor. 29 years on the legitimate stage and 7 years in silent films. He played opposite such greats as Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish. He played in the Fatty Arbuckle series a few times, played in several western silents...and he died in 1922 all alone on a 160 acre ranch in Rainbow! I found a couple of articles about his death and someone else found the one that stated he'd been put to rest at Odd Fellows Cemetery. Odd Fellows Cemetery was also on his death certificate that his great-great nephew faxed to the cemetery manager. The great-great nephew is arranging for a headstone for him.

A word about The Use of Chalk

Many people today will tell you that the use of sidewalk chalk is a perfectly acceptable material to rub on gravestones in order to bring out the carving on hard to read stones. You may find upon closer inspection that they are advocating its use on a stone that it's entire face has been covered with newsprint, pellion or some other such rubbing surface. They are not suggesting or recommending the introduction of the chalk directly to the surface of the stone.
However, some will in fact not only recommend this but highly encourage it. It this an acceptable method of highlighting the carving on the stone? Saving Graves researched the question and put it to experts to find out if it should be viewed as an acceptable alternative method.
According to the Crayola website, Molded chalk, such as Crayola Colored chalk, is a softer chalk made of plaster of Paris, which is defined as quick-setting gypsum plaster consisting of a fine, white or gray powder, Calcium Sulfate Hemihydrate (CaSO 4 ½H 2 O), which hardens when moistened and allowed to dry. According to one manufacturer, Calcium Sulfate Hemihydrate has great applications in the manufacture of stucco, tablets for ceilings, division panels, boards and sanitary porcelain. In fact, it is most commonly called stucco but not the same material as used on the outside of buildings. A prime example of its primary use would be drywall sheeting.
Gypsum, as a rule, has a tendency to expand as it sets. Therefore if the material is left on the surface of the stone it is quite possible that particles could work its way into the stone and set causing the potential of damage to the stone in several forms up to and including causing the stone to break.
If it is introduced into the stone by way of moisture, as that liquid evaporates the gypsum will increase by double in strength and hardness. In addition, if a gypsum based element such as chalk is left exposed to open air, once the liquid is added to it, the setting time is greatly shortened.
While sidewalk chalk is somewhat softer than regular chalk we still do not recommend its use. In a test conducted by Saving Graves, it was proven that it regular chalk will actually scratch a typical chalkboard. While being overall softer in nature, the hardness of sidewalk chalk varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some of the lesser or off brands that we tested were found to be as hard as regular chalk.
To get an informed opinion on the use of sidewalk chalk as a gravestone rubbing took, we contacted Binney & Smith, the parent company of Crayola located in Easton, Pennsylvania. We ask them if they would as a manufacturer of sidewalk chalk recommend its use for gravestone rubbings. Saving Graves received the following response from Crayola concerning the use of sidewalk chalk:
"Crayola sidewalk chalk contains plaster of paris which has a gritty texture. Plaster of paris is not considered to be biodegradable, nor are most of the pigments contained in Crayola sidewalk chalk. Also, product packaging warns of colorants that may stain. This could be a good factor depending on the exact nature of what you are trying to do. While packaging does warn of colorants that may stain, chalk used outside generally washes away because of extreme weather conditions and excessive rain. Again, this could vary depending on the surface it is applied to."
The above was from the website

The rest of this is little tricks that have helped me and I'd like to pass them on to people that work with findagrave.
I noticed very quickly that a lot of the graves I was photographing had names/yob/yod but not much if anything else. That doesn't give the whole picture of the person. One thing I learned when photographing graves in sunny areas was to photograph them *behind* the stone so that you don't throw a shadow on it. I found that the best way for it not to "rotate back" is to rotate it in your computer, then upload it.
Back to the people under the stones. By going back and forth between and findagrave...I can find out where they were born, who their parents were, who their siblings were, and by going to,, looking on for the obituary (helps if you know the location), and if all else fails, checking the mortuary that handled the burial, I frequently find an obituary. By looking for the memorials of the person's family, I can usually link them together with other members of the family who are deceased. Frequently in the same cemetery but with names that in your wildest dreams you wouldn't have believed were connected.
Another thing I've found is that working with people who have died before digitized records came out, many times cemetery managers will tell you that they can't confirm the people are there. That does not mean that they can confirm that they are *NOT* there. The younger managers are many times too lazy to look through written records. As in the case recently of someone who grew up in San Luis Rey, his wife was buried in San Luis Rey Mission Cemetery, his memorial stated he was going to be in San Luis Rey Cemetery, his mother was supposedly in that cemetery also...but the man died in 1924. The obituary plainly stated that he was going to be buried in San Luis Rey Mission Cemetery. But a manager told a findagrave volunteer that she could confirm that he and his mother weren't there. HOW? They both died before she was born. San Luis Rey Mission Cemetery has *many* unmarked graves. The names that were on the crosses are all gone because of weather. The man's wife is in that cemetery so it stands to reason that he is too. Especially because of the obit.
Another findagraver told me that many times you have to ask twice. And I know from experience working with the cemetery that I work with all the time that sometimes a little deeper digging is needed. Tenacity really pays off!

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