Civil War veteran receives headstone

Members of the Newell family stand near the graves of their ancestors. Warren Newell, Joyce Newell, Audrey Spencer Newell, Brian Spencer, Paul Camp; Daniel Newell (kneeling), Janet Howard Zuvela, Lynn Prescott, Laurie Newell, Airika Maeder; right side front: Wickliffe Guy Newell V, (kneeling) Wickliffe Guy Newell III and Wickliffe Guy Newell IV.

Janet Howard Zuvela’s grandmother never spoke of her family.

She speculates that perhaps, buried somewhere deep in the annals of family history, lies a secret, a quarrel, or a figurative skeleton in the closet responsible for her grandmother’s silence.

It was only four years ago that Howard Zuvela walked into her best friend’s kitchen and, unbeknownst to her, encountered one of her maternal relatives, Wickliffe Guy Newell III, for the first time.

“She didn’t know she had a family … when we all showed up just a few years ago, she was overwhelmed,” said Wickliffe Guy Newell III.

Since then, Howard Zuvela has embraced her newfound family and has hosted regular reunion barbecues, relishing in the group’s inclusivity.

On Tuesday, Sept. 30, Howard Zuvela and several fellow Newell relations and friends gathered to pay respects to their ancestors interred at Bayview Cemetery in Langley and to express gratitude for the recent installation of their great-great-grandfather’s marble headstone — his grave had previously been unmarked.

Among the family members were several residents of Skagit and Island County including Audrey Spencer Newell of Clinton and her sister Laurie Newell as well as fourth and fifth generations of Wickliffe Guy Newells.

“It’s an amazing thing, I met all of this wonderful family,” Howard Zuvela said.

Howard Zuvela’s grandmother’s father, Wickliffe Guy Newell I, was born on May 22, 1846, in Trumbull County, Ohio. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he attempted to enlist in the 7th, 8th and 23rd Wisconsin regiments but was rejected due to his young age. When he turned 18, he finally succeeded, enlisting as a private.

According to Daniel Newell, his great-great grandfather was nothing if not persistent.

Wickliffe Guy Newell III noted that in 1865 his great-great-grandfather became a scout for the Buffalo Bill Wild West show and the wagon trails full of European settlers. Eventually, he and his wife Mary Ellen relocated first to Colorado and later to Whidbey Island where he built a fish hatchery near Maxwelton Road, established a post office and Masonic lodge and worked as census taker for Island County.

He died Jan. 30, 1932, in Everett.

Wickliffe Guy Newell III said he learned of his namesake’s life story through the family’s stories and research on the Internet — the same way by which he and Howard Zuvela were able to connect, with the additional aid of mutual friends and acquaintances on Whidbey. He first began trying to find his great-great grandfather’s burial site about seven years ago.

Armed with the knowledge that his great-great-grandfather was buried at one of two Pacific Northwest Bayview Cemeteries, he mounted his bike and rode to Whidbey where he visited Langley City Hall and informed staff of his desire to find his ancestor’s grave, which he supposed would be located at Langley’s Bayview Cemetery. Much to his surprise, he said, he received an answer almost immediately; a former mayor of Langley was present and said he had gone to school with members of the Newell family.

Due in part to work by the Genealogical Society of South Whidbey Island, records regarding Bayview cemetery graves had been established. Moments later, the two were driving to Bayview Cemetery where Wickliffe Guy Newell III laid eyes on the place where his great great-grandfather had been laid to rest; a numbered marker rose from the ground, no name was present.

“I always wanted to make sure he had a nice headstone so family could go there and find him,” said Wickliffe Guy Newell III.

With help from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a veterans memorial program, Visser Funeral Home and friends in Island County, Wickliffe Guy Newell III saw to it that his ancestor received a proper marble headstone in mid-September of this year.

“I felt a lot of relief; it felt pretty good,” said Wickliffe Guy Newell III, adding that it appears that many individuals are unaware of their deceased relatives’ burial places, or simply don’t care to find them. “It is kind of a sad thing. I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted one of my grandkids or great grandkids to find out [where Wickliffe Guy Newll I and other ancestors were bured].”

Surrounding Wickliffe Guy Newell’s grave are nine other Newell family members, some of whom have also been interred without proper headstones. According to family members, plans are in the works to ensure that all of the deceased, including Wickliffe Guy Newell’s first wife, receive their own markings.