Thursday, August 13, 2015

Long legal fight brings Lee Harvey Oswald’s tombstone back to Texas

by STEVE BLOW | Dallas Morning News

Lee Harvey Oswald’s wandering tombstone is finally back home.

Well, not home home. It’s not back in the cemetery, but it is back in Texas and in the hands of the guy who rightfully inherited it from the people who found it under their house.

Shall I explain?

Three and a half years ago, I wrote about David Card and the legal quest he had begun to reclaim Oswald’s original tombstone.

If Card’s name rings a bell, it’s because he’s Poor David, the owner of venerable Poor David’s Pub. And he’s even poorer now after almost four years of legal wrangling over the stone.

Oswald’s tombstone went missing from Fort Worth’s Rose Hill Cemetery on Nov. 22, 1967, the fourth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. It was taken as a prank by some Oklahoma teenagers.

The stone was recovered soon enough, but Marguerite Oswald decided to give her son a plainer, less tempting stone instead. The replacement says “Oswald” and nothing more.

Jump ahead to the 1980s. Card’s father and stepmother bought the Fort Worth home that had belonged to Marguerite Oswald. A few years after moving in, they were amazed to discover her son’s original gravestone in the crawlspace under the house.

The Oswald family made no claim on it. So the stone went into the hands of Card’s cousin for safekeeping. But after he died, his wife suddenly cut off communication with the family.

By accident, the family discovered on the Internet that the stone had been sold to an eclectic private museum in Illinois.

And that’s where Card drove last week — to Historic Auto Attractions in Roscoe, Ill. — to claim the stone after a legal settlement was finally reached.

“Feel that!” Card said Tuesday, placing his hands on the gravestone, displayed for my benefit in the dark, daytime emptiness of Poor David’s Pub.

“You touch it and it’s like you’re reaching 6 feet down and right into Oswald’s coffin,” Card said.

I pressed my palm against the light gray granite and felt Marguerite instead. I felt the love of a mother, the only person who would have chosen pretty engraved flowers and a large cross for the grave of such a notorious killer.

The confidential legal agreement with Historic Auto Attractions owner Wayne Lensing prevents Card from disclosing any details or disparaging anyone. And my phone call to Lensing’s lawyer was not returned.

But the 75-year-old Card can sure talk about his excitement at having the gravestone back.

“It’s got a wow factor to it,” he said. “Think about it. It’s the original tombstone of the most famous assassin in the history of civilization, except perhaps for Cain, who killed Abel.”

Card said he has hoped all along that The Sixth Floor Museum will want to acquire and display the tombstone. But its clouded legal status has prevented any serious discussion till now.

In the meantime, he’s considering what he called a “Day of Display” at Poor David’s or some other Cedars area location. “I’d like to do it to thank the many people who supported me on this,” he said. “They knew the stress and financial strain I was under.”

He won’t disclose his legal fees. “Just say it was brutal,” he said.

But Card said he never wavered in his determination to get the stone back to Texas and to Dallas. “I was the only one with the legal standing and the financial means to fight for it,” he said.

Reflecting his hopes, he said, “Everyone who goes into The Sixth Floor and sees it and photographs it will be grateful it is where it is.”