Grave News: Two Headstones Found on Campus

Photo by Indigo Magaña

On December 18, Reed Facilities Employee Knol Simnitt found something rather concerning. The morning was still on its way up to 50 °F as he was making his routine rounds, “checking the dumpster areas for debris that need to be cleaned up.” There, near a dumpster just south of 28 West, Simnitt found two headstones. According to Simnitt, they were “face down in the grass. One was broken. I turned them over and set them against the concrete wall.” Simnitt continued, “They are solid—a bit less than 100 pounds.” 

The first headstone is a polished slab of pink granite, with a white frame marked by two roses. Inside the frame is written, “BELOVED WIFE” / “EDNA GIESSEMAN” / “1898 – 1971”. 

The second headstone is white granite, broken into two nearly equal pieces. Put together, the person’s name appears to be Annie Lou Toney. The left half reads, “ANNIE” (part of the E is missing), “AUG. 1,” / “1894.”. The right half reads, “MOTHER”, a piece of an “E”, “LOU TONEY” / “JAN. 2,” / “1982”. Separating 1894 and 1982 is a white heart with two roses, on the right half of the broken slab. The words, “WE LOVE YOU” are written inside. 

A note was filed by Community Safety on 12/18/21 about the matter. “2 graveyard headstones were found near the garden house dumpster. They are sitting out front of the western entry to 28W. PPB [Portland Police Bureau] was notified and sent a photo. PPB will contact us when they have located the owner/cemetery for pick up.”

According to Community Safety Dispatcher Cassie Thurston-Bianchi, “when we initially called PPB, we were told that headstones are often stolen from graveyards, buffed clean of writing, and re-sold.” She said the granite headstones found on campus are usually priced at approximately 500$ each, but other headstones can get much more expensive than that. 

“They’ve just been sitting and waiting. We handed the situation over to PPB. We assumed possible theft,” said Community Safety Officer Christin Grieser. “It would be great if they were claimed.”

Thurston-Bianchi added that Community Safety “received a missive in late January letting us know that [the cemetery/funeral home that Reed contacted] believed the headstones had been examples rather than ‘real’ headstones and, since they were damaged, asked that we discard them.” On the off chance that the headstones are real, Reed Facilities Manager Steve Yeadon said that, for the time being, is keeping them in storage instead of “discarding them.” “This sort of stuff might come back around. I don’t want to mess with it,” said Facilities Employee Alex Webb with a chuckle. 

Searches in The Social Security Death Index from 1935-2014 for Edna Giesseman and Annie Lou Toney gave no records of any deaths under those names. Searches on, a website dedicated to cataloging the names and information inscribed on gravestones, also yielded no results.

“Real” or exemplary, what was $1000 dollars worth of headstones doing face down behind a Reed dumpster? We may never know.

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