Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Honeymooners Found Dead

I have been researching extended branches of my tree to find distant cousins. During this search, I stumbled upon Dawna Gay Mendenhall. She was my 6th cousin, 5x removed. I had researched information about her parents before, but had nothing on her except a name and birth date. So, the past couple of days, I decided to find more about Dawna and I found a TON.

Dawna was born on 03 Feb 1935 in Mapleton, Utah, Utah. She graduated from Springville High School, attended Brigham Young University and was working in Salt Lake City when she became betrothal to Marion Henry Cluff "Mario". Mario was the son of Spencer Marion Cluff (1903-1966) and Nina Hannah Porter (1909-1979). 

Dawna and Mario married 16 Sep 1955 in Salt Lake City, had a reception on 17 Sep and then left for their honeymoon to Yosemite park and San Francisco. During their trip, they stopped in Nevada at a motel called the Verdi Motel. This was a fairly new motel- within a year of just having been built. The heaters hadn't even been used yet. The couple checked in at 5 am and it must have been chilly because they turned on the heaters and went to sleep. The young couple never woke. They were found the next day by the motel owner- Lester Mylan. 

It was discovered later that there was no inspection on the new motel and that the gas from the heater did not release to the outside air, but rather, through a cinder block back into the room! This is so completely tragic and breaks my heart that this young married couple, who are just starting their lives together basically suffocated to death in their sleep. Dawna was only 20 years old and her husband of only 3 days was 22 years old. 

Three years later on 21 May 1958, it was announced in the Daily Herald (Utah County, Utah) that the parents of the young couple accepted an out-of-court settlement form the motel owners- Lester C. and Margaret E. Mylan. It didn't disclose the amount of the settlement, but that it was "substantial". 

Dawna Gay Mendenhall 
03 Feb 1935 Mapleton, Utah, Utah
19 Sep 1955 Verdi, Washoe, Nevada

Marion Henry "Mario" Cluff 
07 Dec 1932 Provo, Utah, Utah
19 Sep 1955 Verdi, Washoe, Nevada

Dawna and Mario are buried in Provo City Cemetery in Provo, Utah, Utah- Block 8, Lot 71C. 

Here are several newspaper articles I found this tragic story from-- thanks to the Provo Library!


  1. That gave me chills. How sad! And, I love that their headstones says "husband" & "wife"... if even just for that very short time.