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California man trying to keep boyhood promise

A few days after 3-year-old David Lucas’ sister died from complications during childbirth he stopped by her gravesite and made her a promise.

Forty years later he’s trying his best to keep it.

“I told her I’d be back, that when I got older I’d come back and get her,” said Lucas, a drug and alcohol counselor in Sacramento, Calif. “We knew we would be leaving (Clovis), because (the family) always talked about moving to California. We weren’t going to leave her there all by herself.”

The Clovis native tried to make good on his promise in August, when he spent three days searching for his sister Elizabeth’s gravesite to no avail.

Elizabeth Lucas was born on May 22, 1960. She died the same day and was soon buried at Mission Garden of Memories cemetery off Seventh Street, according to family records obtained through Steed-Todd Funeral Home and Mission Garden.

Joe Champouillon, general manager of Steed-Todd and Mission Garden, said cemetery workers plan to help the Lucas family find Elizabeth’s plot.

The problem, Champouillon said, is locating a grave among more than 10,000 others spread over 42 acres.

“There’s stacks, and stacks and stacks of old files,” Champouillon said. “The records are terrible in the old cemetery, and that’s one of the problems ... There’s a lot of people buried in the old cemetery (who) we have no idea that they’re even buried there.”

Mission Garden was operational in the early 1900s, when Clovis became a city. In the 1940s, officials built Lawn Haven Memorial Gardens cemetery off Llano Estacado.

David Lucas said his father was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base when his sister died, and the family moved away from Clovis in 1963. He said the family has a burial plot in Sacramento, Calif., where he’d like to bury the entire family, with his mother and sister Elizabeth side-by-side.

Michael Lucas, David’s brother, said family members have been back to Clovis five times looking for the brass marker that shows Elizabeth’s burial plot.

Like his brother, Michael Lucas said he will stop at nothing to find his sister’s gravesite.

The Eurika, Calif.-resident and government transportation planner also remembers visiting the site as a youngster — he was 9 when his sister died — and said he will be in town in November to try to locate it.

As youngsters in Clovis, David and Michael Lucas would often talk about making sure their deceased sister would be buried with the rest of the family, the brothers said.

The goal of finding her gravesite is especially important to David Lucas, who named his own daughter Elizabeth in his sister’s honor.

“This is a thing between me and Mike,” he said, “and we want to find her because it’s something deep inside of us. That’s why I named my daughter after her.”