Forest Lawn Cemetery
(- May 16, 1948)
At the place where the East Lawn, East Center, and Section A intersect, there is a tall monument dedicated to Elwynn Hepple. The monument is a cenotaph, a marker placed in memory of someone although there is no one actually buried in the plot.
The cenotaph was placed there to commemorate Elwynn Hepple’s heroic deed which unfortunately cost him his life. Hepple was an Australian merchant seaman who was serving on board the British steamer Fort Ellice. The steamer was in Norfolk awaiting a shipment of coal.
Early on the morning of Sunday, May 16th, 1948, Hepple and two other shipmates from the Fort Ellice were returning to the ship via a launch after spending the day Saturday visiting Norfolk on their first day of liberty since arriving from England.
As the liberty launch was returning to the ship shortly after midnight, a cabin cruiser owned by Raymond Gunter caught fire. All seven aboard were forced to abandon ship and were struggling to stay afloat. As the launch approached the four men and three women, Hepple shed his coat, jumped overboard, and swam toward the seven in the water. Hepple is credited with saving the lives of two of the women. One of the women, Mrs. William Wallace, began to panic because she could not swim. According to Mrs. George Farris, another of the passengers in the water, Mrs. Wallace saw that she had a life preserver and began to struggle with her until Mrs. Farris lost consciousness. Hepple is credited with separating the two women, and giving the life preserver to Mrs. Wallace while he brought Mrs. Farris to the safety of the launch. He then headed back toward Mrs. Wallace to save her as well. That was the last he was seen. After all seven of the stranded passengers from the pleasure craft were rescued by the launch, the boat operator, Dennis A. Perry, made a search of the area looking for Hepple before returning to Sewell’s Point. The Coast Guard continued the search for him throughout the day, but his body was not found.
Virginian-Pilot, “Seaman Lost Aiding 7 Off Burned Craft, May 17, 1948, pgs. B22, B18.
Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries. Profile written by Michael Frost, Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation volunteer.
Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Office hours: Monday to Sunday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Free parking inside cemetery.
Admission Cost: Free
Address: 8100 Granby Street, Norfolk, VA 23505
Official web site for more information: www.norfolk.gov/cemeteries
Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation Web Site: www.norfolksocietyforcemeteryconservation.org