Karl Smith was only 12 when he passed during a scouting trip.
His sister, Ann Kear, was only 7 then. Karl drowned during that trip and being a young girl of 7, never had much to remember about her brother. Ann always wanted to know more about Karl.
Ann has spent decades searching for that one person who might be able to help her. There is a mystery visitor who’s been leaving things on Karl’s grave for 70 years.
Every time she goes to visit her brother’s grave, Ann finds a few surprises. Hydrangea heads, a red rose which wasn’t there on Sunday, and even poems and letters.
Karl’s passing rocked the small Cotswold village.
Newspaper journalist Camila Ruz was just as befuddled as Ann.
As a little girl, Ann did not attend the funeral. But according to her mother, Karl was a boy deeply loved by everyone. Karl left his mark and for someone to still be visiting his grave, shows the kind of boy he was.
Villagers had theories.
But they were just speculations. Ann has written articles, talked on the radio, gone to scouts reunions, been on the news, and even left a message in the parish magazine. She really wants to unravel the mystery visitor.
It was at Oxwich Bay, August 1, 1947, when the 12 year old Karl drowned while swimming with friends. The scout leader went off to buy food. Naturally, the other boys took the opportunity to get in the water. All except for Karl came out.
Camila took Ann to the Gloucestershire archives for more research. There were photos Ann had never seen. The ladies wrote down every name they found, and even an address. A man named Eric White was with Karl at the camp site cooking food when the accident happened. Another man, George Lee, was at the beach and he remembered people trying to save Karl.
Many others got back to Camila but with no luck.
But Regan made another discovery.
The poet, Robert Stephen Hawker, went to Cheltenham Grammar School. The same school Karl went to. Hawker’s works were part of the mystery letters left at the site.
Ann was shocked upon hearing Camila’s news. The clues were helping and now Ann had a list of boys who went to the same school. Camila went ahead and attempted to contact Karl’s former classmates, many of whom had already passed. No luck.
Ann was an eager sleuth and she found something in Karl’s old box of schoolwork. There was a Dennis Parker, a close friend of Karl’s. He went to the same school and even Ann’s mother spoke of him.
Ann received a call from Dennis Parker but he said he wasn’t the one responsible for the visits. Ann knew she had to dig deeper. And dig she did. She found another name. The name of a boy who shared a tent with Karl on that fateful day.
All trace of the boy disappeared after 2014. Until Camila found out that he got married and changed his name.
Ron is a lovely gentleman and the moment he meets Ann, he breaks into a smile. A smile that says he was more than ready to share everything he knew. And so he did.
He shared a tent with Karl. It was Ron and another scout that found Karl’s clothes. He ran back to the beach and together with his other friend, found Karl face down in the water.
Ronald went on to become a police officer because of the incident. He received praise from a cop during the inquest and at the age of 16, started his journey as a cop. That journey led him back to Karl.
Ron says he can’t remember any of the other scouts. It was Karl he was closest to.
Ann finally got to thank the man who was leaving flowers for her brother. And it was the sweetest, loveliest meeting Ann and Ron has ever had in their lives. And Karl is smiling up there.
“He’s not even here now but he’s still touching people. That’s something pretty remarkable, really, isn’t it?”
But who wrote the poems? Ron only ever left flowers. Camila suspects that there are many other mystery visitors. Karl only lived 12 years but has inspired countless people. He even brought his sister and best friend together. And the search goes on. Such is life.
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