WHEELING - It's gone.
For 70 years a marble angel measuring just over 2 feet tall stood atop Patricia Jean Padlow's grave stone in Wheeling's Greenwood Cemetery. It recently disappeared without a trace.
Four-year-old Patricia died of a kidney ailment on Oct. 24, 1943, while her father, U.S. Marine Edward Padlow, was serving his country in the Pacific during World War II. The girl's mother, Veronica "Vee" Padlow, was a devastated young woman grieving without the comfort of her husband's arms until he could return from the battlefield.
Photo by Heather Ziegler
A shaken Veronica “Vee” Padlow laments the loss of her little girl and now, the angel that used to adorn her gravestone.
Photo by Heather Ziegler
Veronica “Vee” Padlow leans on the gravestone of her little girl, Patricia, who died at age 4 in 1943. The pain of her loss has returned as the angel that has topped Patricia’s grave for 70 years was recently taken.
A photo provided by the family shows the angel as it stood on the grave for many years.
"We sent him three cablegrams. One to tell him that our daughter was sick, another to say she was not expected to make it and the third telling him that she had died," Veronica explained. "He only received the last one, and he fainted when his commanding officer told him the news."
While Edward was sent home to bury his child, his Marine unit went on to a deadly battle on Iwo Jima, which resulted in large numbers of American and Japanese casualties.
"It was ironic that he lived because our daughter died," Veronica said.
The Padlows resided on 26th Street in Wheeling during the early years of their marriage. Veronica recalls walking past a local monument business and seeing a large, carved angel in the window.
"It was so beautiful. I wanted it so badly for Patricia's grave, but money was really tight during the war," Veronica, now 94, remembered. "The man at the business listened to my story of losing our little girl, and he allowed me to take it and make payments on it."
The Italian marble angel cost an unheard of $900 at the time, but to Veronica it was a priceless tribute to the couple's only child. She faithfully made payments over many years.
Because of health issues after the war, Edward and Veronica moved to the warmer climate of California. The couple made many return visits to their daughter's grave, which has been kept immaculate over the decades. When Edward died in 1983, Veronica's niece, Tammy Glentz, also a California resident, began looking after Veronica's resting place. Glentz has accompanied her aunt on trips back to Wheeling and the cemetery where their family members are buried.
Until just a few weeks ago, the large cherub had kept watch over Patricia's grave. However, Veronica and Glentz recently were horrified to learn that the angel had been stolen. They returned to Wheeling last weekend and have been searching other cemeteries in hopes of finding the lost angel.
On Tuesday, Veronica tearfully steadied herself against her daughter's headstone on which a photograph of the child holding an oversized doll can be seen. The words "Our Darling" are etched into the stone. However, the angel has been stripped from the grave.
"My husband sent her that doll, and she never put it down. So I had that picture of her with the doll and they put it on the stone. ... She was such a beautiful child. She was great company to me," Veronica said.
Glentz said she and her aunt have driven to many cemeteries thinking maybe they would find the stolen angel, but now they fear they will be going home in a week or so without success.
Officials at the cemetery said that while they have cameras and employees regularly working in the graveyard, they have no idea who took the angel or how it was removed from its mooring.
The cemetery gates are closed at nightfall, but it is a busy place with many visitors on a daily basis.
Anyone who might have information about the missing angel can call Glentz at 951-317-7371.