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Harold Wright, a Saint John historian, started the push to have Charles Gorman's grave properly marked. ((CBC))

Seventy years after his death, the burial site of Saint John's famous Olympic speedskater Charles Gorman has been marked with a proper headstone.

Gorman's original gravestone marked "Charlie" had sunken into the ground and was buried under earth and grass at the Old Cedar Hill Cemetery on the city's west side.

It wasn't until a local historian went looking for the grave that people realized it had disappeared.

Gorman was a widely celebrated speedskating world champion in the 1920s. He was so popular in the southern New Brunswick city that when he died thousands of people lined its streets to pay their respects to the athlete thought to be New Brunswick's first Olympian.

More than 100 people turned out for a memorial service for Gorman on Tuesday that saw a new, polished black headstone etched with images and accolades placed at his grave.

Margaret Touchborne, who is one of Gorman's relatives, said the new headstone is a fitting tribute for the former world champion.

"I think it really tells about his life because he was more than a speedskater, he was also into baseball and track," Touchborne said.

"So yes, it depicts the whole thing, it's nice, everyone can be able to come and see it now."

The memorial service on Tuesday would have been the speedskater's 113th birthday.

'Right project at the right time'

Harold Wright, the Saint John historian who pushed for the grave marker, said he thought the headstone would be smaller but he was impressed with the final result.

"We're all proud of our heritage here, no matter what type of heritage it is. When it's part of a heritage that affects one of our greatest known athletes and it affects their burial location, you know, we're still a community that's quite respectful of burial locations, so it all gelled," Wright said.

"It was the right story, the right project at the right time."

Saint John-based Irving Oil Ltd. covered the cost of the stone, while other community members made donations for the site work and ceremony.

Cemetery staff also reset six of the original Gorman family markers at the site.

Although Gorman's gravemarker had disappeared over the decades, the mark of the legendary athlete is everywhere in Saint John.

His name is attached to a city street, a local arena and there is a memorial statue of him in a local park.