Michael A. Sawyers
RAWLINGS — The mystery of the Dan’s Mountain memorial to a fallen deer hunter is solved, but then it wasn’t really a mystery to Vic and Wanda Westfall.
On Thursday, the Times-News reported that Doug Conlin, a former Rawlings area resident now living in Delaware, had stumbled in 2007 upon a somewhat-remote and anonymous woodland memorial to a dead hunter on the Dan’s Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Conlin was touched by the remembrance — a wooden cross, photos of two young girls, a toy deer and two spent rifle shells — and wanted to make contact with the family and offer to help maintain the memorial.
Vic Westfall made the cross that reads, “Merry Christmas, Dad. We miss you.”
The Westfalls, who live on Tom’s Hollow Road, helped to comfort Brian Lubawski as emergency workers recovered the body of his father, John F. Lubawski, 57, of Baltimore, who died of a heart attack Dec. 8, 1997, while deer hunting.
“We have stayed in touch with his son, Brian, and Brian’s wife, Cheri, for years,” Wanda Westfall said Monday.
Brian and Cheri Lubawski, now residents of Felton, Pa., contacted the Times-News via email Monday.
Brian Lubawski said he and his dad were hunting together that day in 1997.
John stopped at his hunting spot and Brian continued uphill. After a few hours Brian returned to check on his father, finding him lifeless.
“We have kept in touch through Christmas cards and an occasional phone call to those residents since that time. Their kindness and willingness to help a stranger in need have never been forgotten,” Brian wrote. “We have returned to that site many times since Dad’s passing.”
Brian and Cheri have returned to hunt as well, or just to sit near the memorial for his father.
The two photos of girls at the site, one of a preteen and one of a toddler, are of John Lubawski’s grandchildren.
“They were his only two grandchildren at the time,” the Lubawskis wrote. “Since his passing, many more grand- and two great-grandchildren have arrived.”
Brian is now a grandfather himself and is planning a return trip to the site with his own grandson this spring.
The photo of the older girl is of Brian and Cheri’s daughter, Brittany. The younger girl is the daughter of another of John’s sons, Jason, who named her Hunter in honor of his father’s passion for the outdoors.
Brian described his father as a warm and gentle man who loved his family and the outdoors.
“He would be proud to see how his family has kept his memory alive and how we are passing along his love of the outdoors. He would also appreciate Mr. Conlin’s offer to lend a hand in the memorial upkeep for a man he never knew,” the Lubawskis wrote.
Conlin said late Monday he was pleased to have discovered details about the memorial and not surprised to learn that the hunter was a warm and loving father and grandfather.
“I sensed that right away from the memorial,” Conlin said.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.