Lost Then Found

  • Community   Sunday, July 10, 2022   

April 26th 2022, found Garry and Karen Hill, planting trees along the Avon River on their farm, the Glen Avon, located south of Stratford.  Recent flooding brought up a piece of driftwood five feet above the current water level -- up to the spot Garry was preparing to dig for a tree planting.

The driftwood had markings on it, so it was set aside.  Days later being curious about the markings, Karen tried to clean up the algae that had taken residence on the wood. The amount of growth had hidden a message literally from the grave.

Once it dried, Karen realized it really was a plaque, and the name of Mona M. Quigley was revealed.  Her birth date was legible, but her date of passing was not as defined. With the driftwood located in the Downie section of Perth South, and with history books and old county maps, Karen became a detective, to scour the books, searching for the family Quigley. None were found. With the Hill family having six generations in Downie, Karen was confident the driftwood did not originate in Downie and considered the location where it was found along the Avon River.

Could it be possible that this little piece of driftwood lovingly carved by someone, travel the six to seven miles down the river to the spot it was found. Every local person knows the Avon River is not a canal style of waterway.  It starts in the northern part of the County of Perth, curves, ebbies traveling through Stratford, and has at least one sharp curve passed the Village of Avonton in Perth South, where a mill once took advantage of the water speed from the change in the water course.

Karen’s next step was plugging into the search engine, Find a Grave, to locate a possible original home of the Memorial driftwood.  And sure enough, up popped a picture of Mona’s stone grave marker, along with her mother and brother, in Stratford’s Avondale Cemetery. The picture is thanks to BJ Wiehle.  

Pictured also was the wooden plaque, right beside the stone grave marker.

Mona’s birthdate and date of passing coincided with the dates on the Memorial plaque. It was a match….and another clue was added to the search; Mona’s maiden name of Lillow. But again, no persons with a sur name of Lillow currently resides in Stratford, nor could Karen find any in Perth County. But there were some outside of the County along with other Quigleys.

Now that the plaque’s original home was located, both Karen and Garry wanted to return the plaque to a member of either the Lillow family or the Quigley. Replacing it back to the cemetery would surely cause it just to float away again. The effort to carve out the memorial, struck a chord with them, as they puzzled over the next step. And it was noticed the rose on the plaque was the exact one on the grave marker. With more cell phones, it is much easier to stay out of printed phone books, so other social media outlets were the way to go, to find the owners of the plaque.

Enter Garry’s brother Stewart, who is the Hill family historian. He consulted Ancestry.ca, found Mona and created a family lineage to see if a local name might be found. Through Ancestry, Stewart discovered that Mona had been married to a Henry, but did this did not help as first thought. There are Henry’s in the local area though not related to Mona, and then once she married into the Quigley family, her life took a different turn.

Stewart then accessed Facebook, with the family names of Lillow and Quigley.  Sure enough, a Marlene (nee Quigley) name, was brought up. She was not only alive but also living in Stratford. And she was Mona’s daughter.  Stewart called her – it was Mother’s Day by chance – to leave a message. Marlene called back, and Stewart provided her with Garry’s contact information. 

A few phone calls later, Marlene and her niece Ashley arrived at Karen and Garry’s farm to take possession of the prized Memorial plaque. For a few hours, Karen and Garry’s story was related to them, and Ashley told the story of the plaque – that she had carved in loving tribute to her grandmother – and – Marlene related the story of Mona. Through this is all, Mona became a person to Karen, Garry and Stewart with his wife Kathy.

This story began due to chronic flooding in the part of the Stratford cemetery that brought the memorial plaque to Garry’s feet, green with algae, weathered by wind, water, and sun.  Within a month of its discovery and the results of various sleuthing, the plaque was placed into the hands of its rightful owners.  It had been missing for years while slowly making its way down the Avon River, getting a push – a not so gentle nudge – with each subsequent flooding.  

How this tiny plaque got to where it was found, along the banks of the Avon River, in Perth South, is a mystery: a puzzle that took detective work, social media and some tenacity to return it to its right owners.