DEARLY DEPARTED GOES MISSING: A Discovery Bay woman's next of kin experienced another meaning of the words "dearly departed" when they paid her a visit recently.

Eighteen-year-old Ashley Caruso was nonplussed when she went to Brentwood's Union Cemetery to say goodbye to her grandmother before leaving for college only to discover that she couldn't find the grave site.

"She says, 'I can't find grandma,'" recalled Oakley resident Charleen Earley, the teen's aunt.

Ashley's mother then headed to the cemetery, but she couldn't find the marker, either.

So Earley went to look for herself.

"She was absolutely missing -- it looked like she was never buried there," she said.

Had someone stolen the stone? Or moved their mother without notifying them?

While her sister fretted, Earley remained pragmatic.

"There's just no way they moved her," she said, noting that her mother's grave had been dug extra deep to accommodate two people. "She's 12 feet under -- it would be a lot of work for them."

It turns out that Mother Nature and a spate of new graves were the culprits: Backhoes and other heavy equipment had churned up the sod during last year's wet winter when there were frequent burials in that section of the cemetery, said cemetery manager Barbara Fee.

When maintenance personnel reseeded the area, grass sprouted from the mud that had been displaced onto the granite marker belonging to Earley's mother, she said.


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With map in hand, cemetery officials canvassed grave sites to confirm that the rest of the markers were visible.

"We did check just to make sure it wasn't an epidemic," Fee said.

shims happen: The Bay Bridge's "Boltgate" situation has led to months of headaches for those charged with building the new span.

In May, with the broken bolts scandal in full swing, Gov. Jerry Brown addressed media questions on the issue:

"Don't know if it's a setback. I mean, look, (expletive) happens."

Fast forward to Thursday at a news conference where the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Steve Heminger addressed a series of questions about the quick decision to proceed with the Labor Day weekend opening of the bridge despite an ongoing retrofit fix. Pushed on how long ago the decision was made to open the new span on that day, the reporter finally asked if Heminger had "hoped" the bridge would open then.

"(Expletive), I hoped we could open the bridge three years ago."

Reporters at the packed news conference let out a hearty collective laugh, while a couple wondered if they might have heard "shim" and not the colorful word he shared with the governor.

A building becomes a panther: More than 100 people, as well as the Eye, showed up at the Richmond Progressive Alliance's downtown offices Aug. 11 to hear why the building would be given a new name.

The occasion didn't disappoint, chiefly because it served as a chance to regale attendees with stories of a Richmond pioneer -- social activist Bobby Bowens.

Bowens, a former captain in the Black Panther Party and community worker who pioneered needle exchanges to fight AIDS, died of cancer in August 2012, but his presence loomed large on this day.

Elaine Brown, a prison activist, writer, singer and former Black Panther Party chairman, said Bowens was a "true revolutionary."

Black Panther Bill Jennings called Bowens a "man for all seasons."

Former Councilman Jeff Ritterman exhorted all to "build this beloved community in Bobby Bowens' name."

The real Bowens emerged in the voices and enthusiasm of those who spoke, which animated the grainy photographs and news clippings that were on display. In 1971, Bowens spearheaded a Black Panther party and free shoe giveaway of 2,500 pairs in North Richmond, Jennings said.

In 1968, after returning home from combat duty in Vietnam, Bowens joined the Black Panther Party in Richmond, one of the strongest chapters. He spoke at political education classes and helped to start free breakfast programs in local schools.

In 1992, Bobby started a needle exchange program in Richmond, becoming one of the city's early and foremost advocates for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Now the RPA offices will henceforth be known as the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center.

Staff writers Rowena Coetsee, Matthias Gafni and Robert Rogers contributed to this column.