Mark Schnyder, NBC 5 News
Dallas firefighters recently uncovered and restored the gravesites of eight fallen firefighters at Oakland Cemetery in Dallas.
It all started when Dallas firefighter Christian Espinoza asked Lieutenant William Murrell: "Do you know where John Clark's buried?"
One week after burying a firefighter killed in the line of duty, Dallas firefighters are back at a cemetery honoring firefighters who until recently, no one knew for sure where their graves were.
About 50 fallen firefighter families joined together at Oakland Cemetery Saturday morning to celebrate the recently rediscovered and newly restored graves of their loved ones.
Lt. Murrell wasn’t sure where Clark was buried. After hours of research, the firefighters found out Clark was indeed at Oakland Cemetery. The gravestone of Dallas's first fallen firefighter 111 years ago was covered in brush and filth.
"I had to dig in with another rookie underneath there and look around and sure enough John Clark was there," said Espinoza.
That led to more homework. Finding the other fallen Dallas firefighters for which few knew where they were buried. A week later the assignment was done. All the graves were at Oakland Cemetery including those of four former fire chiefs, most not well maintained. In two cases the headstones were gone. But the Dallas Firefighters Association took care of it.
"We forgot about them and we say we don't forget about them so we come and clean the up and honor them and say 'hey we're still here, we haven't forgotten about you 100 years later'," said Espinoza.
"He was just special to everybody because he was lost," said John Clark’s great-niece Debra Dilord clutching a page of 100+ year old photos of Clark that were in the family’s Bible.
"I think it's just amazing,” said Dilord. “Their [firefighter’s] persistence and even thinking of doing it is just a blessing."
These are the eight firefighters buried at Oakland Cemetery:
John Clark, died June 24, 1902
Henry G. Hodges, died December 24, 1912
Hugo J. Rheinlander, died September 17, 1918
Bert E. Burris, died June 30, 1923
E.O. "Charlie" Jones, died August 18, 1923
George W. Hulse, died November 16, 1927
Eddie L. Frith, died February 9, 1931
Jack Edward Sullivan, died May 14, 1945