Finding Pearl

It’s typical to think of graveyards as gloomy, bleak and desolate places.

But on a recent spring-like day in February, Evergreen Cemetery bustled with cheery workers wearing breezy smiles, and echoed with the sounds of youthful exuberance.

Almost 50 students from Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Union University had turned out, along with a dozen or so other volunteers, to help Welford Williams (pictured above, with students) reach his mother’s side for a long-overdue visit.

Williams, age 87, last visited his mother’s grave in 1972. He had just retired from the U.S. Postal Service, and brought his six-year-old daughter Bridgette to the cemetery.

Forty years ago, he told the volunteers, the vegetation was already beginning to take over. But Williams could recall a time when the cemetery was nothing but grass and headstones. As a 10-year-old, he had hunted for Easter eggs among the grave markers.

“[This] was wide open then,” he marveled, gesturing at the tall trees and heavy overgrowth surrounding his mother’s grave. “It looked just like Hollywood Cemetery.”

In the years since, however, vegetation has all but obliterated grave sites, roads and pathways, making it impossible for Williams to get his bearings and find the plot.

So it was only natural that Williams’ ears perked up when, at a meeting of the Henrico Historical Society, he heard John Shuck mention a project to spruce up Evergreen.

“My mother is buried there,” he told Shuck.

Ever since, said Shuck, he’s been on a mission to find Pearl Williams.

‘Almost mystical’
A recent winner of the Award of Merit from the Henrico Preservation Advisory Committee, Shuck began visiting cemeteries while pursuing his interest in genealogical research.

On his first visit to Evergreen in 2008, he recalls being completely overwhelmed. The cemetery, which sprawls along the city-county border in eastern Henrico, was used as an illegal dump for decades. On one early trip there, Shuck and his fellow volunteers took just two hours to fill a large dumpster with tires from the site.

“You had to bushwhack back then,” he said. “You couldn’t walk through here.”

Since then, Shuck and his colleagues Vicki and John Stephens (who also received awards from HPAC) have spent many a Saturday clearing wide paths through the underbrush, uncovering graves and even sections of paved road. The addition of so many VCU and VUU volunteers, he says, has provided a huge boost of manpower to the group and accelerated the pace of the clean-up project.

And in mid-February, just off one of the newly-cleared paths, volunteer Dave Campbell stumbled upon the grave of Pearl E. Williams.

“I was just exploring,” recalled Campbell. “We’ve been looking for it for two years. [I thought], We’re never gonna find this thing – and then there it was. I just stood staring at if for a minute. It was almost mystical.”

“The way it was standing up there,” added John Shuck’s wife, Debbie, “it was just waiting to be found.”

A week later, Welford Williams arrived at Evergreen with wife, several daughters and a few grandchildren in tow. Led to his mother’s side, he placed flowers around the grave.

“I don’t think Momma will mind me stepping on her,” he said with a smile as he arranged the flowers.

“She’s probably glad to see you,” called out a family member.

Good-looking bunch
After everyone posed for pictures, Williams said he wanted to address the students. Passing around photos of his parents, and a baby picture of himself, he described the night that his mother was laid to rest.

She died three weeks after Pearl Harbor, he told the volunteers, on Christmas night. The funeral was held so late in the evening that car headlights had to be used to illuminate the grave.

Among the family members that Williams introduced was his daughter Bridgette, who had stood on a tree stump by the grave on his last visit in 1972.


Today a pre-kindergarten teacher at Glen Lea Elementary School, Bridgette Williams was ecstatic at seeing the long-lost site again.

“This is incredible,” she exclaimed, noting that her cousins in Philadelphia had been thrilled when she contacted them with the news. “One, she’s crying, because she never got to see her grandmother’s grave.

“They can’t come from Philly,” she said, “but I’m sending pictures.”

Her sister Winifred was quick to chime in with high praise for the student volunteers who had helped bring the moment about.

“You always hear about the bad [regarding young people],” said Winifred. “You never hear about the good, about kids like this.”

Their father, eyes shining, clearly echoed the sentiment.

“What a good-looking bunch of young people -- I don’t see no ugly faces nowhere!” Welford Williams told the smiling students. “I will never forget this day, meeting you, and finding my mother’s grave.

“Excellent work!”
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Glen Allen HS student earns playwriting residency


A play written by a Glen Allen High School junior was selected, along with seven others, to be performed professionally this summer through a nationally acclaimed Virginia high school playwriting program.

47B, a play written by 16-year-old Glen Allen High school student Dominique Dowling, was chosen by New Voices for the Theater, a playwriting competition sponsored by the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, from a pool of more than 150 plays by high school students in the state. > Read more.

Missing Eastern Henrico man found dead

Henrico Police have found the body of a missing Eastern Henrico man.

The body of 25-year-old Taj Rashad Bullock, who was last seen June 10 in Eastern Henrico, was found June 20 in a wooded area in that part of the county. > Read more.

Henrico Schools to participate in USDA summer food service


Henrico County Public Schools, through its Division of School Nutrition Services, will participate in the 2017 Summer Food Service Program administered by the US Department of Agriculture. The program provides meals to students enrolled in Henrico Schools summer programs or in those run by the Henrico County Department of Recreation and Parks.

Food service will be provided Monday through Thursday each week. (All sites will be closed Tuesday, July 4, in recognition of Independence Day.) Breakfast will be served from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Lunch will be served between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., but specific lunch times will vary depending on the site. > Read more.

Henrico to offer July 20 class on treating opioid overdoses with naloxone

The Henrico County Division of Fire and Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services (MH/DS) will present a free class Thursday, July 20 on how to administer naloxone to potentially save the life of someone who has overdosed on opioids.

The Revive! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education for Virginia class will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the MH/DS offices at 4825 S. Laburnum Ave. > Read more.

Crime Stoppers’ Crime of the Week – June 20, 2017


Police in Richmond are still looking for the person who they say robbed the FasMart at 2107 Semmes Avenue. Crime Stoppers needs the public's help identifying this suspect.

The robbery occurred at approximately 12:45 a.m. on Wednesday, May 31. The suspect entered the store pointing the weapon at the store clerk. As the suspect walked toward the counter, a second employee approached the suspect and grabbed the barrel of the weapon. > Read more.

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June 2017
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The 42nd annual Greek Festival at Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral will be held from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. June 1, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 2-3 and from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 4. Enjoy food, dancing and music; the Cathedral Choir will perform at 8 p.m. June 2. Browse through art, jewelry and other amazing finds in the International Bazaar. A portion of the proceeds will go to local charities: June 1 – The Autism Society of Central Virginia; June 2 – The Healing Place; June 3 – ART180 and Richmond Police Athletic League; and June 4 – Richmond Friends of the Homeless. For details, call 358-5996 or visit http://www.greekfestival.com. Full text

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