It would have been a fitting ending to the saga of Tulsa's buried '57 Plymouth Belvedere had Raymond E. Humbertson, whose 1957 prediction of the 2007 population of Tulsa was the most accurate and entitled him to be the car's first owner, been able to collect his prize in person. However, like many aspects of this unique event, it simply wasn't meant to be.
Over the weekend it was discovered that Mr. Humbertson, a career Marine and Korean War veteran who according to family members "moved around a lot," did not live to see the car unearthed. Mr. Humbertson succumbed to cancer back in 1979 at the very fitting age of "57."
Tulsa officials announced June 22 that Humbertson was the winner of the two-door hardtop Belvedere that drew international attention when it was pulled from the vault on June 15, 50 years after it was buried beneath the Tulsa County Courthouse lawn.
According to published reports, his nephew, Donald Humbertson of Woodbridge, Va., confirmed Raymond E. Humbertson's death to contest officials and reported that his wife, Margaret Humbertson, died in 1988. Raymond and Margaret Humbertson had no children, their nephew said.
Raymond Humbertson's closest living relatives appear to be two elderly sisters in Maryland. Under the contest rules drafted a half-century ago, if the winner of "Miss Belvedere" was no longer living, the car would be presented to their nearest relative. If no winner were to be determined, the car would be held in trust for five years before being auctioned.
The Oklahoma Centennial Commission will have a trust company speak with the Humbertson family about the family's wishes for the car, centennial events co-chairwoman Sharon King Davis said June 23.
The winner of the car also will receive a $100 savings bond that was buried with it.