A child’s grave, lost in a shifting city

Thu, Apr 8, 2010

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Lost Grave by Robert Samuels and Kenny Malone

When two-year-old Melisa died of pneumonia almost 50 years ago, she left a hole in her mother’s heart that was so big her  family moved away and left Miami behind.  But when they returned to visit Melisa’s grave years later, they couldn’t find it.  Miami was unrecognizable to them, the grave lost.

“They had fond memories here, of quiet roads and large cows and jazz clubs,” says reporter Robert Samuels, who also wrote about the search for Melisa’s grave in the Miami Herald. But when they came back, “Cows had been replaced by condos.  A highway slogged through his old neighborhood.”

Ruben confronted what many people in South Florida face when they leave and return. The city, it seemed, had “scraped itself clean and built anew.”

This is the story of how a younger member of that family– son-in-law Steve Gould– went looking for Melisa’s grave to bring solace to her parents as they made their own final arrangements.

Ruben Manlangit, his son-in-law Steve Gould, Ruben's wife,Vera; and Ruben's daughter, Dianne./Robert Samuels
Ruben Manlangit, his son-in-law Steve Gould, Ruben’s wife,Vera; and Ruben’s daughter, Dianne. /Robert Samuels

The search eventually brought him to the Design District, where he found Melisa’s gravestone, and took a picture of it. Then he presented the picture to his parents-in-law, Vera and Ruben Manlangit.

“I feel like I got her back a little bit,” said Vera. “I don’t have her back, but I know where she is now. And I know that nobody took her spot, which I thought maybe they did.”

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