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Long-missing headstone gets permanent home

The headstone for Elizabeth Schenck was found at

The headstone for Elizabeth Schenck was found at the Thomas Dodge Homestead and is now back at Monfort Cemetery. (Aug. 29, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A historic headstone that was lost, discovered, then discovered again has made it back to the Port Washington cemetery where it belongs.

At a ceremony at Monfort Cemetery Wednesday, town officials joined historians to mark the replacement of the 238-year-old headstone of Elizabeth Schenck, the 2-year-old daughter of Revolutionary War-era patriot Martin Schenck.

The headstone, which had been missing for several years, was found in 2010 in the house of Elizabeth's grandfather Minne Schenck while the home was being restored at Old Bethpage Village Restoration, said Glen J. DeSalvo, a Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society trustee. Cow Neck was Port Washington's former name.

After historians there informed the society of the find, the society took the stone and stored it at the Thomas Dodge House in Port Washington. DeSalvo said he discovered the stone there in March and began researching where it belonged.

In July, Charlie Rubin of Merrick, whose daughter had just rented an apartment at the Dodge house, spotted the headstone on the patio during a visit. After asking his daughter about it, he contacted North Hempstead Town Historian Howard Kroplick, who used his pickup truck to retrieve the stone and begin the process of replacing it at the cemetery.

"It never occurred to me to contact the historical society," Rubin said. "If you come on a historical place and there's a dead body, you don't call the people who run the historical place -- you call the police. To me, it was, 'Call the proper authorities.' I called the town."

DeSalvo, meanwhile, was shocked to find the stone missing, and flummoxed to read in Newsday that Rubin was the discoverer. "He cannot take any credit for discovering a prior discovery," DeSalvo said.

Rubin said he later apologized to the society for the miscommunication. "I just wanted to see it get placed back where it was supposed to be," Rubin said. "And in the end, that's exactly what happened."

The stone was placed in a small trench filled with concrete that will ensure it will stay in place, Kroplick said. He said he did research to make sure the stone was placed above Elizabeth's grave, and not that of her 8-month-old sister, Sarah, whose stone remains missing.

While possessing lost historic headstones is a rarity for the historical society, DeSalvo said he will be en route Thursday to pick up another one that belongs in a cemetery within the town.

"That one will not be kept outside," he said. "It will remain indoors."

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