It was Christmas Eve in 1933 in Willoughby, Ohio, a small city just off Lake Erie. It would have been a blustery night to be wandering the streets, but a young woman in bright blue—her dress, coat, scarf, hat and purse all blue—was out walking when she was struck by a New York Central passenger train. She had nothing in her purse but ninety cents and a ticket to Corry, Pennsylvania.
“The Girl in Blue,” as she came to be known, had arrived in Willoughby as mysteriously as she left. She had been staying for a couple of days at a local boarding house, but revealed almost nothing about herself. Reports at the time say that she spoke to a couple of people while out walking that December night, then she seemed to simply step in front of the speeding train.
The townspeople embarked on a search for the name of the woman, but no one was able to identify her or locate any next of kin. A resident donated a burial plot in the Village Cemetery and she was laid to rest. A collection was taken up for a plain headstone, which was inscribed:
In memory of the Girl in Blue / Killed by Train / December 24, 1933 / Unknown but not forgotten
Over the next sixty years the young woman became a kind of ward of the city and as her reputation grew people would come to her grave to leave small tokens, flowers and coins. But still, no one knew who she was. In 1993, a chain of events changed that, and her true identity was puzzled out.
The Girl in Blue was Josephine (she went by “Sophie”) Klimczak. It was a combination of a news story and renewed interest in the mystery, coupled with some digging into tax and property records in Warren County, PA (that ticket to Corry was key) that sealed a pretty strong case.
Although the official death record still only cites her as the Girl in Blue, her identity has been unanimously embraced in town, a kind of rebirth in her demise. In 2002 a local monument retailer donated a foot stone, to finally give her a name.
Know Before You Go
Willoughby is about 20 miles northeast of Cleveland, just a couple of miles off of Lake Erie. The Village Cemetery is in the center of town, and the Girl in Blue stone is in the center of the cemetery, at the base of its only mulberry tree. Like all cemeteries in Ohio, it is only open during daylight hours.