Final resting place ... finally

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New Brunswick girl who died in London during WW1 finally buried in Canada

More than 90 years after she died and her remains were inexplicably forgotten in storage in a London catacomb, Gladys Fowler is finally home in Canada.

On Sunday, during a service on a hillside in Hammondvale, N.B., Fowler was laid to rest in a grave where relatives believed she had been all along.

The coffin carrying the remains of Gladys Winifred Fowler rests at the family burial site as her niece Jane Fowler Morse and nephew John Fowler pay their respects in Hammondvale, N.B., Sunday. - Photo by The Canadian Press

HAMMONDVALE, N.B. -

More than 90 years after she died and her remains were inexplicably forgotten in storage in a London catacomb, Gladys Fowler is finally home in Canada.

On Sunday, during a service on a hillside in Hammondvale, N.B., Fowler was laid to rest in a grave where relatives believed she had been all along.

"It's a sad day because a young girl has died, and a young girl has died very far from home, and didn't return until this day," said Fowler's niece, Jane Fowler Morse.

Fowler died on April 17, 1917 at the age of 18 at the Berners Hotel in London.

She was the daughter of then-New Brunswick MP George Fowler, at the time a lieutenant-colonel serving with the 13th Canadian Reserve Battalion during the final months of the First World War.

A death certificate lists her cause of death as a combination of heart disease and illness.

Her coffin was placed in a packing crate and stored in a huge catacomb beneath the Anglican Chapel at Kensal Green Cemetery - apparently for later transport to Canada - but that didn't happen until now.

Even now, Morse said no one knows why her aunt was left behind.

"Our grandfather did suffer financial losses in a big fire in Sussex in the early 1920s and he was ill when he came back from the war and he died in 1927, so whether those interfered, or something else, it's hard to say."

Barry Smith of the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery traced her story after cemetery officials decided to open the mysterious packing crate that had been left among the 2,500 coffins that inhabit the catacomb.

Inside they discovered the coffin bearing a plaque with Fowler's name engraved.

That led Smith to trace the death certificate and begin a search for family members in an effort to solve the mystery.

Morse, of Geneseo, N.Y., came forward after hearing the story.

She said her father, Cedric, often spoke fondly of his sister, but never mentioned that she wasn't buried in the family plot, despite the fact that her name was engraved on the large granite headstone there.

Fowler's father died in 1924 and her mother died in 1936, while a brother named Eric died at the age of 30 in 1930.

Morse's father died in the United States where he had emigrated, and his body was donated to science.

"A wound was closed for our family today, and I'm certainly grateful for that," said Morse's brother John Fowler of Wrightstown, Penn.

Organizations: Canadian Reserve Battalion, Anglican Chapel

Geographic location: London, Canada, HAMMONDVALE New Brunswick Sussex Geneseo, N.Y. United States

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  • mary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    very touching story! I'm sure ms. Fowler is resting peacefully with her family on home soil. A great day for her family who are fortunate to witness Gladys coming home to rest after all this time. A happy ending and i'm sure the family are very greatful to the gentlemen caretaker in England who came to Canada with her remains.

  • mary
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    very touching story! I'm sure ms. Fowler is resting peacefully with her family on home soil. A great day for her family who are fortunate to witness Gladys coming home to rest after all this time. A happy ending and i'm sure the family are very greatful to the gentlemen caretaker in England who came to Canada with her remains.