A Mysterious Resting Place

It sits off the road—settled in the trees, about a mile from downtown Langley. You might miss it if you didn’t know it was there. The entryway is nondescript, matching the peacefulness that permeates the neighborhood. We spent over a year on the island without knowing a cemetery was nestled in the forest behind the bucolic farmland.

The Langley-Woodmen Cemetery, established in 1902, is the oldest cemetery in South Whidbey and was donated to the city by the Langley Woodmen Lodge in 1913. However, with limited funds to support its maintenance, the cemetery became overgrown. When the city proposed selling it in the mid-1990s, a community effort was launched to keep the public ownership of the land and ensure funding for its upkeep. It remains a beautiful place to this day.

Hidden on the property is a simple grave marker—the final resting place of Stella V. Lee. Born on June 9, 1882, Stella died in 1968. But who was Stella? There are no obvious family members beside her and while her grave is well kept, it doesn’t appear to be visited often. We discovered Stella, and the Langley-Woodmen Cemetery, almost by accident, when a relative mentioned visiting there. In a cemetery that honors the passage of time, we found this woman who has always been a mystery to us.

Stella was the daughter of Margaret “Maggie” Murphy and Oliver Funk, the sister of Alice Nunan (née Funk)—one of our Nunan family matriarchs. We know little about her history. The 1930 United States Census shows her as married to William E. Lee and located in Kvichak, in what was then known as the Alaska Territory. We always imagined her as an adventurer, a woman who charted her own path. This mythical image somewhat substantiated by the photos of her wrapped in furs, posing for a picture in an Alaskan gold mining town. Our family traces its roots to the northern part of the island, we wonder how Stella ended up in South Whidbey. We don’t know much about her, just some facts and a few dates and, while her stories may be lost to the past, her rediscovery serves as a reminder of the history surrounding our family and our connection to the island we call home.