2 October 1998
Walter Lister Himes Jr., a veteran of World War II and a career Army man who lived much of his life in Prince George's County, died in 1968 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. All was well for over a quarter-century until his wife, Florence, passed away and joined him at the cemetery.
When their daughter, Nancy Vogel, of Alexandria, visited the grave site after the new headstone was installed, she saw that her father's name was misspelled. The new stone read Walter Lister Hemes Jr.
Her mother died in 1995, but Vogel -- no relation to this writer -- remains unsuccessful in her attempts to correct the mistake.
She telephoned the Army after discovering the error and encountered some initial skepticism. "They were trying to put the mistake on me -- like I didn't know how to spell it," she said.
Arlington Cemetery sent a letter to Vogel in October 1996 thanking her for reporting "the spelling discrepancy" and promising her that a new marker would be ordered. "Please allow four to six months for this new stone to be cut, inscribed and delivered," the letter said.
Vogel waited four to six months, and then another four to six months, and then another -- close to two years, all told. But the headstone remains unchanged.
Upon learning of the problem last week, cemetery superintendent J.C. Metzler and cemetery administrator Donald Snyder immediately investigated. They say that an order was forwarded in October 1996 to the Veterans Affairs Department, which is in charge of ordering headstones, but that the papers apparently disappeared somewhere in the pipeline.
A new stone has been ordered on an expedited basis and should be in place within a month, Snyder said.
Vogel is pleased by the response but says she should not have waited so long to press for action. "I kind of dropped the ball, too," she said. "I kept hoping if I waited another couple of months, it would be fixed."