The final piece, a heavy granite block with two names etched on the face, has sealed the story of a war veteran who spent his final days homeless in Prince Rupert.
Earl Corliss, a private in the Canadian Army stationed on the North Coast during World War Two, was laid to rest with full military honours on Feb. 24, 2017 — 22 years after his death. Months later, the City of Prince Rupert received the veteran’s head stone, provided for by the Last Post Fund, and on Wednesday, Sept. 27, cemetery caretaker, Darrell Pearson, laid Earl’s stone in place at Fairview Cemetery.
The Last Post Fund, a federal government program, provides veterans with military grave markers. The organization also made a point to include Earl’s wife’s name on the stone, as Salome’s weathered stone laid in 1979 was barely legible.
The search for Earl began in early 2016 when a retired RCMP officer, Wendel Ottmann, remembered the homeless man who lived in a cardboard box in the pit of a burnt-out hotel. He sent a message to the Northern View to inquire if Earl had been given a proper burial, and if not the Last Post Fund would help arrange it.
With the help of the Prince Rupert Genealogy Club, the City of Prince Rupert and the Corliss family in Burns Lake, Earl’s ashes were found and brought back to Prince Rupert to be placed next to his wife.
“That was such a nice service and to have the stone in now,” said Rhoda Corliss, leaving her sentence to drift off. Rhoda is one of Earl’s closest relatives living in the Burns Lake area with her husband George. The couple drove to Prince Rupert in a snowstorm last February with their son, Keith, and his family.
After the service, there was a reception at the Royal Canadian Legion, where the Corliss family met with Salome’s relatives from Lax Kw’alaams and Kitimat.
“Before we went to Terrace we went back to the cemetery and took pictures of the flowers and it was nice to see,” Rhoda said. She doesn’t drive long distances, and neither does her husband, so this was their moment to spend alone with “Uncle.”
The stone sits high on the mossy muskeg earth. The caretaker said sometimes these grave markers sink right out of sight, and he doesn’t want that to happen.
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PART 2 – EARL CORLISS COMES HOME
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