Precious heirloom stolen from mausoleum adds to family’s pain

Richard Sennet loved history.

In a eulogy memorializing his father, Howard Sennet wrote that he was a “great teacher” who had an “endless thirst for history.” The Mill Creek area man died May 18, 2009, at 69 years of age.

Now, the family that mourned for another loved one in 2010 has l

ost a precious piece of family history.

On March 7, it was discovered that an heirloom gold pocket watch had been stolen from a glass niche inside the mausoleum at Everett’s Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery.

“Somebody smashed the glass. It’s really awful for my family,” said Howard Sennet, of Seattle. “We lost our dad, and we lost our brother nine months later.”

Vernon Sennet, Howard’s brother, died Feb. 21, 2010. The 45-year-old, who grew up in Everett, lived in New Jersey and had battled cancer.

Urns holding the ashes of Richard* and Vernon Sennet are in the niche, which is now repaired. Like other glass niches on the mausoleum wall, the Sennet display contains family photos and other meaningful mementos — including the movie comedy “Caddyshack.”

The family learned of the theft when cemetery officials contacted Richard Sennet’s widow Ruth, who has remarried.

“Unfortunately, these things do happen,” said Dennis Christie, general manager of the cemetery. “It hadn’t happened in a long time, but it’s not the only incident recently.”

On Feb. 26, The Herald published an article about 30 bronze vases being stolen from graves at Evergreen. With the price of scrap metal rising, bronze has become an increasingly valuable target for thieves.

Christie said Thursday that the Sennets’ niche was the only one broken into, and that the mausoleum is now being locked. Visiting families must now go to the cemetery office to sign in and be let in, a measure Christie called a temporary solution.

Cemetery officials met with Everett police officers to discuss possibly installing cameras or taking other security measures. Christie said the cemetery is offering a $500 reward for the watch, and that a flier showing its picture has been distributed to local pawn shops.

Sgt. Robert Goetz, spokesman for the Everett Police Department, said Thursday he had checked with detectives investigating the thefts and that no suspects had been identified. He said crime prevention officers had a good meeting with cemetery staff. “It’s really sad, where these crooks are going with this,” Goetz said.

“We’re doing everything we can. We know what it’s like to lose loved ones, too,” Christie said. He added that mourners are encouraged not to put anything too valuable into a niche.

The pocketwatch, which didn’t work, was a gold Elgin that once belonged to William Sennet, the grandfather of Richard Sennet.

“The watch belonged to my father’s grandfather,” said Barb Sennet Wilson, who recently moved from the Everett area to California. “I think it was a railroad watch. He was a conductor on the railroad.”

After losing her father and brother in less than two years, Wilson said “you get through it, and try and celebrate life.”

“Then this happens and it rips open those wounds again,” she said.

A Cascade High School graduate, Wilson said her family has a long history in Everett. Her grandfather on her mother’s side, Albert Heide, was an Everett home builder. Albert Heide and his wife Esther are buried at Evergreen, near the mausoleum, she said.

Howard Sennet has been doing his own police work. He has visited pawnshops and checked eBay and other websites. He’s discouraged that so many places buy gold, but said pawnshop clerks have been concerned and helpful.

Police told him that pawn shops are cooperative in returning stolen property, but that the system relies on serial numbers — which the old watch likely doesn’t have.

Sennet and Wilson, whose sister Sherry Sennet lives in Bellingham, remember their father’s love of art and historical places. Richard Sennet taught history at several community colleges. He had visited Civil War sites, Pearl Harbor, and the great cities of Europe.

Another item in the niche, which wasn’t stolen, is a miniature replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, a sculpture masterpiece. Howard Sennet bought it in Rome for his father.

“My father’s and brother’s memories won’t be tainted, but this is a sock to the gut,” Wilson said about the stolen watch. “I’m just sick over it. You can’t replace something like that.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

* Correction, March 21, 2011: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect name for a person whose remains are in the mausoleum at Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery.

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