A random act of kindness in a Minneapolis cemetery led to an ungainly second – and a long-lasting connection

5 or 6 years in the past, Sally and Scott Taylor of Richfield determined to mark Memorial Day with a stroll via Minneapolis’ bucolic Lakewood Cemetery. Since neither had kinfolk buried within the space, Scott instructed they carry flowers to put on one of many graves, as a method of honoring the useless.

So the Taylors wandered via the cemetery’s lush, 250-acre grounds, scanning dates on headstones: Maybe they might choose the grave of a soldier who had misplaced his life in conflict.

Close to the pond, they observed a flat marker with an emblem of two rifles crossed, which belonged to a younger man named Floyd Barnhart, who died in 1918. Grass had overgrown the perimeters. The urn beside the household gravestone was empty. Surmising that Barnhart’s grave hadn’t been visited in a while, the Taylors caught their bouquet within the urn.

The subsequent 12 months, the Taylors determined to make visiting Barnhart’s grave a Memorial Day weekend custom. That they had no concept that their spontaneous good deed would ever be observed. Or what it’d set in movement. Or what it’d say about human connections, among the many dwelling and the departed.

On Memorial Day weekend of 2018, the Taylors had been trimming the grass round Barnhart’s marker after they observed a pair get out of their automobile and begin to stroll towards them.

Sally Taylor instantly felt the discomfort of being one way or the other caught within the act — even when it was a well-intentioned random act of kindness.

“I used to be like, ‘These persons are coming this fashion,’ ” she recalled. “And then you definately really feel such as you’re in somebody’s home.”

The lady beelining for the grave was Floyd Barnhart’s great-niece, Laura Soderquist, of Cambridge, Minn. She’d been visiting the household plot in Lakewood each few years for the reason that 1990s, when her grandparents had been interred.

An aunt of Soderquist’s had lengthy tended the household graves, however lately, well being points had prevented her from maintaining.


In 2017, when Soderquist had visited Lakewood, she was stunned to seek out {that a} wrapped bouquet had been positioned within the urn, as an alternative of the flowers her aunt sometimes planted. “I assumed, ‘Effectively, that is completely different,’ ” she recalled.

Soderquist determined it was her flip to take duty for the household graves. So she and her husband, Jeff, toted flowers to plant. However after they arrived at Lakewood, they discovered an even bigger shock: two strangers on the household plot.

“I used to be form of bowled over as a result of I figured me being as intently associated to the general public in that plot, I ought to a minimum of know who’s there,” Soderquist mentioned.

Maybe they had been kinfolk of her great-grandmother’s second husband? Or descendants of her grandfather’s brothers? As one thing of a novice genealogist, Soderquist was excited to seek out out. So she walked as much as the couple and mentioned, “Hello, who’re you?”

The Taylors defined how they’d picked Floyd Barnhart’s grave, out of Lakewood’s tens of hundreds, to pay their respects.

“It was this awkward second, as a result of we needed to say, ‘No, we actually do not even know this man,’ ” Sally Taylor mentioned.

Happily, the Soderquists interpreted the gesture because the Taylors had meant. “I did not assume something bizarre was happening there, however I actually would not have known as it traditional,” Laura Soderquist mentioned.

The Taylors and the Soderquists spent about half an hour speaking by the grave; the dialog flowed. The foursome might have simply left it at that, chalked up their serendipitous assembly to a humorous coincidence, mentioned their “Take cares” and gone on with their lives.

However sooner or later, any person mentioned, “Possibly we’ll see you right here subsequent 12 months?” And any person else mentioned, “Or perhaps we might make a plan to fulfill?” And so they all agreed: Why not?

Persevering with the connectionThe following spring, Laura Soderquist texted Sally Taylor to let her know when she and Jeff had been planning to go to Lakewood.

“They had been very heat and welcoming individuals and we felt like we simply form of made a bit connection,” Soderquist defined. “I discover as you become old, it’s more durable to fulfill individuals. Folks have a tendency to remain extra to their very own selves and their very own lives, so every time one thing presents itself, I am at all times open to it.”

The {couples} picnicked on the plot. Soderquist introduced pictures of her great-uncle Floyd and shared that her father had been named after him. She confirmed the Taylors a newspaper clipping saying Barnhart’s loss of life and the pocket watch he’d had with him in France, when he died of pneumonia, proper round his 22nd birthday. Soderquist’s great-grandmother had bought the six plots in Lakewood, presumably when she was capable of convey her son’s stays again house.

In 2024, the Taylors and the Soderquists determined to not meet due to COVID. However this 12 months, they resumed their custom and gathered graveside the weekend earlier than Memorial Day, to honor Floyd Barnhart and domesticate their new friendship.

When the {couples} first met, Soderquist could not fairly consider that the Taylors would have picked her great-uncle’s grave randomly, and that maybe they only did not need to share their connection to the household.

“I feel I requested them the second 12 months, ‘Are you certain you are not associated?’ ” Soderquist mentioned. “As a result of, God bless them, that can be a lovely factor that they had been doing, adopting somebody who they thought was a forgotten vet.”

She appreciated that the Taylors selected to acknowledge a younger soldier who did not have any direct descendants.

And she or he’s glad she and Jeff have been capable of get to know the type of people that would exit of their technique to attend to somebody who appeared uncared for.

“They stepped up and did one thing about it,” Soderquist mentioned. “And I feel that basically speaks to the form of America all of us hope we nonetheless stay in. So we’re pleased to have some adopted members of the family.”