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Sailor buried with honors in Mendocino, 150 years late

MENDOCINO — A diverse crowd gathered Tuesday at a sun-drenched Mendocino cemetery to pay respects to an anonymous young man who never received a proper burial when he died, likely from drowning, more than a century and a half ago.

The man likely was a sailor who had not achieved a high station in mid 19th-century society, judging by his crude burial in a redwood coffin that was exposed in 1986 on Mendocino's ocean bluffs.

It was a different scene Tuesday, when the man was given a moving send-off with speeches, poems and the sound of bagpipes. About 40 people, including California State Parks officials, attended the event.

Mariner Finds His Rest in Mendocino

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The burial plot where the skeletal remains were lowered in a small plywood coffin has a sweeping view of the coastal town and the bay where it's thought the man perished.

Mourners took turns shoveling dirt onto the coffin as "High Winds and High Waves," a song written by a Vancouver composer, sounded on the bagpipes.

Several participants said the man represented those who helped build Mendocino, first as a logging town, but never received acknowledgement for it.

"We know a lot about the movers and shakers in town, but not much about people like this guy," said Martin Simpson, a volunteer at the Kelley House Museum in Mendocino.

The ceremony also fulfilled an emotional need for several participants.

Breck Parkman, the state's senior archaeologist and officiate for Tuesday's ceremony, said people hope to be remembered when they die.

He told mourners that "by being here today, taking time out of your busy day, you become his family."


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