What do a Sapulpa gas station and a biker group from France have in common? For one Muskogee woman, it's the missing piece of her family tree.
Rainey Dean said she was stopped at a gas station last April when she heard a group of bikers speaking French.
It was a motorcycle club from France who had come to the U.S. to ride Route 66. They stopped to check a bad tire, she stopped for coffee. Dean called the meeting a Divine coincidence.
"I told her that my grandfather had died in Word War I and that he was buried in France and asked her if they ever got over towards the cemetery if they would mind just taking a picture and sending me a picture. So I gave them my information and wrote my grandfather's name, Sam Beaver, on the back of the card," Dean said.
It took nearly a year, but the bikers went above and beyond Dean's request.
Over the weekend, they rode almost 400 miles to the Meuse-Argonne cemetery in Northeast France where Beaver is buried and surprised her with a Facetime call as they walked toward his headstone.
"To see that beautiful, beautiful national cemetery, and they gathered around and they played the Star Spangled Banner, and they had a moment of silence, it was just so overwhelming, I just cried,” Dean said.
Then the Facetime tour continued in a nearby museum where Beaver is honored with his own plaque.
"The American Indian wasn't considered a citizen in 1918, so Samuel Beaver actually volunteered to go to France to fight for freedom,” said Dean.
Their last stop was the exact spot where Beaver died in action during World War I.
Dean said, "What a wonderful story, for a Native American to have so much respect for freedom and to be able to fight for the freedom of others as well."
She said the chance encounter, and the kindness of strangers, gave her an experience that will last her and her children the rest of their lives.
"For them to go to all the trouble just to fulfill a request from a stranger," Dean said. “For me, they are my friends, they are my family now."
Dean said her great-grandfather grew up near Stilwell in the Lyons Switch area. He was on the Cherokee roll but his grandfather, Creek Beaver, was Creek. She said Creek Beaver came to Oklahoma from Alabama around the time of the Trail of Tears.
Dean said she hopes to see the gravesite in person one day.