At just 7-years-old Ann was told that her 12-year-old brother Karl was involved in an accident while on a camping trip. She was very young at the time and doesn’t remember much about her brother’s passing or the incident itself.
Ann, who is now in her late seventies, visits his grave often. But, her curiosity was piqued when she realized that she wasn’t the only one who was paying their respects. Over the years a mysterious visitor has been leaving letters, poems, and other small gifts at Karl’s final resting place.
With the help of an investigative reporter, Ann Kear went on a quest to find out who has been leaving these sweet little mementos behind. Although she didn’t know exactly what she would find, Ann uncovered much more than she ever expected.
On August 1, 1947, Karl Smith went camping with his Boy Scout troop at Oxwich Bay in Wales. The mischievous boy slipped past his scout leader and made an unsupervised trek to the beach. Sadly, he didn’t make it out of the water.
Karl’s story was major news in the small village of Prestbury where he lived, and there was an outpouring of support for the family when he was buried at St. Mary’s Church.
Of course, time came and went, and after Ann’s parents joined Karl in the afterlife, she had no one else to talk to about her brother. Or, so she thought.
An intriguing mystery still loomed in the air, and whoever was leaving tributes for her brother obviously knew who he was. More importantly, this person was holding onto valuable memories that Ann hoped they would be willing to share.
In a BBC Stories documentary, The Stranger at My Brother’s Grave, Ann lamented:
“I’m desperate to find someone that can tell me more. You know, I haven’t sort of let it rule my life, but I feel if I can find this out about whoever knew him, I’m doing for Mum and Dad, really.”
Ann felt that time was running out, because anyone who knew Karl 70 years ago wasn’t getting any younger, herself included.
With the help of investigative journalist Camila Ruz, Ann was able to piece together one part of the puzzle. After pouring through the Gloucestershire Archives, the women were able to track down the usual suspects – the surviving Boy Scouts. Unfortunately, none of the men they contacted were Karl’s secret admirer.
However, one name kept popping up over and over again in their search: Ronald Joseph Westborough. He changed his name when he remarried, which is why Ann and Camila initially had problems identifying him as one of the scout’s on that fateful trip.
Ann was in tears when she discovered that Ronald had been visiting Karl’s gravesite all this time. She was moved even more when she found out that her brother’s passing had an unintended positive impact on Ronald’s own life.
Ronald was one of the boys who helped pulled Karl out of the water, and giving the police a report on the matter was a terrible experience for him. However, a kind officer told Ronald something that he took to heart:
“We went to court and I always remember there was a policeman there, and he said ‘You did very well. Don you know, when you leave school, you ought to go into the police force.'”
Which is exactly what he did. When he was 16 years old, Ronald joined the police cadets! Yet, as the two continued to share memories of Karl, Ann quickly discovered that Ronald was only one of many people who had been paying their respects to her brother. Ronald had been bringing Karl flowers, but he wasn’t the one behind the handwritten poems.
It looks like there is still a mystery out there to be solved! But for now, Ann realizes that no matter how many years pass, some people are never forgotten. Although he only spent a short time on this earth, Karl Smith is still touching people’s lives. That in itself is the most remarkable gift that anyone can leave behind.
Check out this video to discover who is The Stranger at My Brother’s Grave.