After being buried for more than 73 years without a headstone, a World War II veteran has at last received recognition for his time in service, thanks in part to an unpaid cemetery worker.
A self-proclaimed “Miami history freak,” Ronnie Hurwitz spent the last 30 years tending to the 10-acre Miami City Cemetery without pay. He has taken a special interest in keeping the headstones of fallen service members in pristine shape. While cleaning the cemetery, Hurwitz discovered the unmarked grave of John W. Little.
“It’s completely mind-boggling that he went unnoticed for so long,” said Hurwitz.
The headstone was revealed on Feb. 8, eight years after Hurwitz made his discovery.
Little, a U.S. Army veteran and Homestead native, was killed in action at 19. He was buried next to his grandparents, but was never given a headstone. Hurwitz said he discovered this while looking through burial records. but wasn’t sure what to do.
“I was complaining to my waitress, a little old lady, about how I couldn’t get a headstone for him,” he said about a chance interaction a few years later. “She told me I needed to contact the family to get something done, so I did.”
He tracked down a blood relative, Leonard Mowry, and contacted the South Dade News Leader, a Homestead-based newspaper.
Staff writer Bob Jensen, a retired Navy commander, relayed the story to the office of Congressman Carlos Curbello, who had the paperwork for a headstone filled out in a week.
Mowry said he and his family were grateful for the work everyone involved in the process made in providing Little with a headstone.
“It is my hope that what has taken place will not end here, but instead, I hope we all make efforts to lend a helping hand to those in need,” he said.
The ceremony included military servicemen who presented the Mowry family with a U.S. flag and a three-volley salute.
Two of Curbello’s aids, also in attendance, presented the family with a Congressional Record Plaque to commemorate Little and his time in the military.
“Everything is so self- rewarding, and my main goal has always been to bring awareness to the cemetery and the rich history it holds,” Hurwitz said.