Monday, November 15, 2010

Headstones & Epitaphs

So I blogged about unusual cemeteries the other day, and I thought the following post would be a nice companion: Headstones and Epitaphs. Of course, the entire range is great. I have over 20 books on epitaphs, as well as books on headstones and monuments. As I've mentioned before, my two favorite cemeteries are Pere la Chaise outside Paris and Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. London's Hightower Cemetery is great, too

With epitaphs you usually learn the person's name, date of birth, date of death, perhaps who they are survived by or whom they're buried with. On some headstones, the epitaphs tell a story about the individual, using poems and verses. Most headstones are simple, but then there are the others!  These are the ones that make you say, "What! You're kidding me?" I like headstones that tell a story.

"Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102, The Good Die Young" East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia

"Here lies Johnny Yeast, Pardon me For not rising" Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery

"She always said her feet were killing her but nobody believed her" Margaret Daniels, Hollywood Cemetery Richmond, Virginia
"Here lies an Atheist, All dressed up And no place to go" Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery
On a hanged sheep stealer: "Here lies the body of Thomas Kemp. Who lived by wool and died by hemp." Larne, Ireland
On a coroner who hung himself: "He lived And died By suicide"
On a waiter: "Here lies the body of Detlof Swenson. Waiter. God finally caught his eye. April 10, 1902"

On a watchmaker: "Here lies in horizontal position the outside case of Dear George Routleight, watchmaker, whose abilities in that line were an honor to his profession -- integrity was the mainspring, and prudence the regulator of all the actions of his life. Humane, generous, and liberal, his hand never stopped until he had relieved distress. So nicely regulated were all his movements that he never went wrong, except when set agoing by people who did not know his key; even then he was easily set right again. He had the art of disposing his time so well that the hours glided away in one continued round of pleasure and delight, till an unlucky moment put a period to his existence. He departed this life November 14, 1802, aged fifty-seven. Wound up in hopes of being taken in hand by his Maker and being thoroughly cleansed, repaired, and set agoing in the world to come." St Petrock's Church, Lyford, Devon, England
"Tears cannot restore her -- therefore I weep" New Hampshire cemetery

On an adulterous husband: "Gone, but not forgiven" Atlanta, Georgia

"See You Soon" Tulocay Cemetery -- Napa, CA

"On vacation, hold mail" Tulocay Cemetery -- Napa, CA

And, my Father's headstone:


Joe Barone said...

What an interesting post. Thanks.

Paul said...

I like one that I saw in an old graveyard in Neath, Wales:

"Remember ye as ye pass by
as you are now, so once was I.
As I am now soon you will be.
Prepare ye now to follow me."


Anonymous said...

If you are in DC check out Rock Creek cemetery, also site of grave of Henry Adams' wife, with statuary commonly know as Grief.

The strange case of Evelyn Davis, the woman notorious for shareholder activism who has already created her own memorial

Any chief executives dreaming of the day when Evelyn Davis will no longer haunt them would probably get a giggle out of a field trip to Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC. There, Davis – though very much alive and still gadflying – has erected a memorial to herself.

For the unhaunted: Davis, currently 78 years old, made her name over the last five decades by showing up to shareholder meetings of Fortune 500 companies and dominating them. The New York Times reported in 1963 that Davis’ ceaseless questioning so outraged fellow attendees at IBM’s annual meeting that she needed to be assigned a bodyguard.

In 1979 she helped lead a shareholder revolt at Ford’s annual meeting, which ended with the announcement that chairman Henry Ford II would retire. People magazine has called her the US’ ‘most dreaded corporate gadfly’.

At some point years ago, Davis, a longtime DC resident, took a break from the rabble-rousing long enough to order a five-foot-tall, verbose headstone for herself. She placed it and other fixings traditionally reserved for dead people on a large plot near the main entrance of one of the most hightone cemeteries in her hometown.

The headstone features details of Davis’ education, employment and marital status. Though the bio was etched in stone, Davis went back and edited the personal data after her third divorce in 1994, and her fourth in 2006. And while epitaphs are typically chosen by survivors, Davis wrote several of her own, including: ‘Power is greater than love, and I did not get where I am by standing in line, nor by being shy.’ How true!

For visitors the memorial also includes a matching marble bench with her name and birth year on it.

Rock Creek Cemetery is located just across the street from Abraham Lincoln’s summer home, in the grounds of St Paul’s Episcopal Church, and has been accepting bodies since 1719. Among the cemetery’s VIP residents is Julius Garfinckel, founder of the departed department store chain Garfinckel’s.

In 1979 Davis was written up in the Washington Post for hectoring then-Garfinckel board chairman David Waters about what she viewed as the company’s excessive legal spending. So when Davis moves into this neighborhood, Garfinckel will probably roll over in his… well, you know.