"My name is Tamara Hergert," she said in one of those little Facebook message thingies which just showed up. "And you don't know me. I was speaking to someone who has lived in Ogden, UT. all her life and she pointed me in your direction.
"In January 1973 my father, Willard Thomas Hobart, was murdered on 25th. He was stabbed in the lungs, which resulted in his death."
And that was all she knew.
I didn't know Tamara from Adam, and have no clue who referred her to me, but if there's one thing I enjoy it is a hunt. Dead people aren't usually very hard to find either; they tend to stay in one place. But this was complicated by the facts of the case -- there was no immediate family in town when Hobart died, he seemed to be a transient, so the county would have buried him, perhaps?
Tamera said her dad had a very troubled 46 years of life. He left home at an early age after his mother married a second husband who told his mother she had to choose between her children or him, and she picked him. Willard and a brother and sister all jumped a train to California.
Her father joined the Navy during World War II, married afterwards, had a child, divorced and ended up in Denver, where he married Tamara's mother.
"1958 was a tough year for him," she said. "A lot of changes. Married in January, a father again in December, " and then to have that child, a son, die accidentally.
"And he also suffered from serious shell shock, PTSD as we call it now. It was too much for him and he drank to cope."
When drinking, he'd disappear for long periods, then come back. He struggled, but the addiction won. "One day he went away and never came back again."
"We don't know how he wound up in Ogden. It's the final piece to a puzzle I will be working to put together for some time. But he wasn't a bad man. Just a human being who got lost in the pain of living."
What happened to him next? My first thought was the cemeteries.
I went to the Ogden City Cemetery because I figured a pauper's funeral might be held there. No dice. The sexton there said Aultorest did a lot of those too, try there?
I did. No dice again.
Meanwhile, I'd asked Police Chief Randy Watt for help. By some miracle did they still have the police report on this crime?
Folks: Miracles happen. Yes they did. On Microfiche.
Sure enough. A quick search of their records -- which are on paper files in the basement -- found that Lindquist had, indeed, taken care of Mr. Hobart. Their files indicated that they'd found enough ID with him to get his Social Security and veterans information, but had been unable to locate his immediate family.
So, using $253 from Social Security, and $250 from the Veterans Administration, he was cremated and interred.
Did they know where? Sure: A quick run to Washington Heights found him in Greenlawn 2, space 138 A, right next to Washington Boulevard.
There is no marker on the grave, but I was able to walk right to the spot. It has a lovely view looking east. The cemetery folk said it would be their pleasure to help Tamara put a marker there.
Tamara sent me a logbook of her dad's ship in the U.S. Navy, the USS General Leroy Eltinge (AP-154), a transport that had a brief career. In includes full crew photos and there's her dad in Division H. He's got what she describes as a "goofy smile" on his face and looks a lot like her own children. It is, she says, the best photo she has of him.
Why did he end up in Ogden? As I told Tamara, Two-Bit Street then was the classic Skid Row. Ogden was a national rail hub, so no matter where Hobart was going, if he was bumming rides on trains he would have to go through Ogden. The Helena was one of several low-cost places on the street.
His final moments were tragic. The police report, and news accounts, are pretty spare on detals. Apparently nobody felt a strong need to go into detail about the death of a transient.
The police report says the officer on the beat was called to the Helena because of a stabbing. In Room 2 he found Hobart laying "on his back across the bed with his feet on the floor. His shirt had been removed by an unknown person. Victim was unconscious and a would giving the appearance of a knife would was apparent on the upper left. Wound was bleeding heavily."
Two other men were in the room, but both were drunk and not much help.
A suspect, James Hare, was apprehended nearby. He had a hunting knife on him and, the report says, "freely admitted stabbing victim with malice and forethought."
Subsequent news stories didn't say much more. Mr. Hare eventually pled guilty to a slightly lesser charge and was given five-to-life.
Tamara is making plans to visit Ogden this summer. She wants to visit her dad and put a marker on his grave. I am very happy I was able to help her do that.