The curious case of the missing tombstone

Old tombstone found recently should have been destroyed

Mission RCMP have discovered the mystery behind a tombstone that was found outside Cedarwood Manor in May.

The grave marker was inscribed with the name Fat Look Chan, but police didn’t know where it came from or where the next of kin lived.

Normally the RCMP would take the item and wait for somebody to make a claim, but because of the sensitive nature of the item, police investigated to see whether it had been stolen from a graveyard.

Const. Cody Jones soon learned the tombstone didn’t belong to any cemetery in Mission, or anywhere even closeby.

Eventually, Jones contacted the Chans, who were surprised to hear the news.

“Initially we had assumed that it was the headstone that was in Boundary Bay cemetery in Tsawwassen, and we obviously assumed the worst, that it was vandalism,” said Tom Chan, Fat Look’s son who now lives in Edmonton.

But it didn’t seem to make sense that someone would steal the headstone and drop it off 90 kilometres away.

When Chan called the cemetery, however, the tombstone was still in place, which made the whole affair even more confusing.

As it turns out, when Chan’s father passed away in the seventies, the original tombstone was engraved and placed in the cemetery. It was replaced in 1993 when his mother was interred beside her husband, essentially creating a duplicate.

“So we assumed that the company that replaced the headstone and removed the original would’ve just disposed of it,” said Chan, but clearly that didn’t happen.

How it made its way to Mission is still a mystery, but Chan says it must have been kept indoors and safe all these years because it’s still in pristine condition.

After being relieved the gravesite was not desecrated, the fact the old one wasn’t destroyed and wound up being abandoned in Mission was still disturbing to Chan.

But he added that he’s very appreciative the RCMP tracked the next of kin down.

“He didn’t have to. It could have just been left there and we would never have known,” he said, adding it’s nice to know the police go out of their way to help people.

Mission RCMP Insp. Richard Konarski said Jones did a “helluva job” bringing the story to a happy conclusion.

“I’m really proud of the work that he’s done,” he said.

Chan said his father was a Chinese immigrant to Ladner, where he became a well-known farmer in what was then a small, tight-knit rural community. He lived his entire Canadian life in Ladner, passing away in his 90s, his son said.

The duplicate tombstone has since been properly destroyed, to avoid a repeat of the incident.

“I don’t want to get another phone call in 20 years to say it’s been found somewhere else,” Chan said, laughing.