Dozens attend reburial ceremony for girl whose grave was left behind

The body of the 3-year-old girl was dressed in a white gown, with roses placed in her blond hair and lavender across her chest. It was sealed in a bronze and lead casket and buried in a cemetery in San Francisco.

And that’s where it remained for nearly 150 years.

Then last month, a crew working on a home-renovation project in the city’s Richmond District discovered the grave, which was supposed to have been relocated in the early 1920s. No one knew why she was left behind or who she was.

On Saturday morning, more than 100 people attended a ceremony for the girl’s reburial in Colma, less than 10 miles from where she was originally buried. They christened her Miranda Eve.

Her casket was put inside a slightly larger cherry wood-paneled coffin with handles on each side and two bouquets of white flowers on top. Her heart-shaped granite headstone read:

Miranda Eve

The child loved around the world

“If no one grieves, no one will remember.”

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The funeral organizers, the Garden of Innocence, which buries abandoned children, left one side of the headstone smooth and ready for engraving if Miranda Eve’s true identity is ever discovered.

Though no one who attended the ceremony knew the girl or her family, many said they knew her story.

“I grew up in the area. It’s part of our roots. This is just one of our babies,” said resident Jennifer Haug, who was born at a hospital at the edge of the cemetery in 1966. “She needed to be represented.”

About a dozen members of the Knights of Columbus in full regalia held their swords into the air when Miranda Eve’s casket was removed from the hearse, a silver Cadillac that drove up from Santa Cruz on Saturday morning.

Another 20 men and women from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows from across Northern California showed up dressed in black with insignia draped across their chests. The order was founded in 1842, before California was even a state.

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Miranda Eve was buried on their land in San Francisco until all of the cemetery’s 180,000 coffins were relocated – part of a massive relocation of graves south to make way for development by order of city leaders.

“We came out because she’s one of us, it’s about something larger and deeper,” said Bonnie Sellars, a grand herald in the group.

Tom Durst, 73, came with his daughter to pay their respects. Whoever Miranda Eve’s parents were, they went to great lengths to preserve the toddler, he said. The flowers around her wrists were unwilted; her hair was still blond when she was first found May 9.

“These people thought they were burying their daughter for eternity,” Durst said. “We wanted to be here as modern San Franciscans to represent the parents.”

Modernity is evident all around the century-old plots these days. Just beyond the gravesite one can see a Best Buy store and a freeway sign for Nordstrom Rack. Unlike most abandoned children, Elissa Davey, founder of Garden of Innocence, opted not to bury Miranda Eve in her organization’s graveyard, but at Greenlawn Memorial Park, not far from the thousands of relocated Oddfellows graves, which is now closed to the public.

The hope is she’ll be close to her parents, if that’s where they were buried and ultimately moved in the early 20th century, Davey said.

“I hope they would be grateful that people cared for her,” said Angelica Awayan, who with her husband and 2-year-old daughter drove to Colma from Oakland for the funeral. “This family chose that process for this child. They chose to preserve her. They loved her truly.”

Awayan, like many in the crowd, began to cry when “Over the Rainbow” began to play.

A line formed and one by one, people who never knew Miranda Eve dropped rose petals over her coffin and wished her goodbye.

“The love of a child goes beyond time, culture or boundaries,” Awayan explained.

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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