Grave error leaves hole in family history

BERLIN HEIGHTS Jemima Ewing is missing. And it seems hard to find anyone who cares.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

BERLIN HEIGHTS

Jemima Ewing is missing.

And it seems hard to find anyone who cares.

The great-grandmother of Leonard Mingus is not in her grave. But no one in authority seems concerned about finding her, some even suggesting a search is pointless. Mingus said his attorney told him recently, "Lennie, I don't know why you're going through all this over a pile of bones."

Jemima, who died April 10, 1919, was buried in Berlin Heights' Riverside Cemetery in a section shared with her husband, Noah. Both have rested without grave markers, which may have contributed to Jemima's mysterious disappearance. Whatever the cause, her remains are gone, and Mingus can't understand the reluctance he's encountered in trying to figure out what happened.

"Jemima Ewing is as sacred to me as burial ground is to the Indians," he said. "I don't know what to do. I don't know where to turn. I'm at a standstill."

Mingus said he first learned of her disappearance in 2006 during a discussion with cemetery sexton Paul Knott. When the grave of his uncle, Lonnie Mingus, was excavated in 1983 to add the cremains of his son, cemetery officials realized Lonnie had somehow been buried in Jemima's plot when he died in 1968. They found a concrete vault identifying Lonnie's casket, but Jemima's was nowhere to be found.

When Knott related the story, Mingus was stunned, more so because Knott had known about the snafu for 25 years.

"I asked him why he never told me until now, and he said, 'I don't know,'" Mingus said. "Where Jemima should be is vacant. It's an empty space."

When contacted, Knott said, "I'm not going to discuss it."

Mingus' attorney, Tom York Jr., ordered a geo-survey of the family plots after Mingus was able to prove his relationship to Jemima. Results of the scan revealed occupied plots corresponding to the cemetery map, but no Jemima.

"They should have known where to dig," Mingus said. "I do a slow burn every time I think about what's happened here."

When Mingus' attorney contacted Sandy Rubino, Erie County assistant chief prosecutor, he was told the matter was unresolvable. Rubino and Berlin Township trustees Tadd Smith and John Zarvis did not return calls seeking comment.

Mingus requested another scan of the ground to determine whether Jemima is located under his uncle's casket, though he doubts that's the case. The procedure would require excavating unused adjacent plots. York told him that wasn't feasible.

Then he resigned from the case.

In a letter to Mingus dated July 1, York stated, in part: "At this time, I have reached the foregone conclusion that the remedy you seek from the Township and the County is not attainable under the laws of Ohio ... We cannot get any closer to the truth as to the whereabouts of your great-grandmother's remains than we are now."

After repeated calls to York, he sent an e-mail that declined comment.

Mingus believes that, because Jemima's status as missing is such an egregious mistake on the part of the cemetery, authorities he has notified are avoiding it.

"She could be in the river, for all I know," he said bitterly. "This is a very, very serious thing. It just eats away at me every day."