Thursday, September 26, 2013

35687. Mary Jane Robbins


You just have to add six words - three before and three after - to fully understand the chosen words of Mary Jane Robbins, "More than all the jelly beans." Add "I love you" and "in the world" to the beginning and end, and you'll see what I mean.

As if that weren't enough, the family added an open jar of jelly beans in the upper left corner. Sweet! I hope she's not buried next to President Reagan.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

35490. Lawrence Gilligan


In a weird way, I was hoping there was nothing written on the verso side of Gilligan's stone. I was really hoping, with most of my might (not all), that he was just Gilligan. The Gilligan. Little Buddy.

Alas, he was Lawrence Gilligan.

That's no fault of his own. History is somewhat replete with famous Gilligans, some of whom played soccer in England, at least one who was an author, and then there was John Joseph Gilligan, a U.S. Marine who earned a Silver Star and had a Navy ship named in his honor. That's some street cred right there.

Yet, if you asked the average American on the street to tell you who Gilligan was, they would inevitably come out with the enigmatic single-named first mate of Captain Jonas T. Grumby's Minnow. Red shirt, white pants, white cap. I refrained from what would have been a faux pas when I stopped myself from whomping the top of the stone with my hat, a la the Skipper. It was the only homage I could think of at the moment, but it was not appropriate at all. That was another Gilligan.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

35439. Donald Gaynor


When I first saw the epitaph of Donald Gaynor in the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Weymouth, Mass. - "We'd rather by flying our K-35 Bonanza" - I thought, bemusedly, isn't that a little specific?

When I reflected on it later, it struck me that it was the same length and cadence of a million bumper stickers I've seen on cars ("My child was student of the month at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School!"). And when it comes to the final bell tolling, well, sure, I can agree with the sentiment. We can all probably give an "I'd rather" when faced with the question or death. It's like the Eddie Izzard bit. "Cake or Death!" Ooh, cake, please. Or the Monty Python bit in Life of Brian. "Crucifixion?" "No, freedom, actually."

All joking aside, a passion that follows to the grave is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, I have yet to slip the surly bonds of earth behind the controls of any aircraft. The best I could do is "I'd rather be driving my 2006 Ford Fusion!" Beats the alternative for the moment, anyway.

Monday, September 23, 2013

35243. Dominick Domanico


It's funny how things fall some times. My father wanted to name my little brother after his father, and give him a middle name that paid homage to his best friend and my brother's godfather-to-be (got all that?). That would have made him Dominic Nicholas, but my mother would have nothing to do with it. She had it flipped so he became Nicholas Dominic. She didn't want the poor kid saddled with the nickname Dominicnic (or a nicknickname).

But some families strictly stand on that tradition. I knew a David David. Peter Peeters played goalie for the Boston Bruins. Andy Andy was a fictional serial killer/stalker on Cheers. It happens. Parents name their kids based on familial guidelines, not caring for the consequences, even on TV.

And you can call me biased on this one. I think there is a lyrical feeling behind the flow of the words "Dominick Domanico." That's one repetitive name I wouldn't have minded having in life. Then again, if my parents had stuck with the Italian and used the same names (I'm named for two of my dad's brothers), I would be Giovanni Giuseppi Galluzzo. With that name I could be piloting gondolas around Venice singing 'Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu." Instead I got John Joseph, which most of my friends pronounced "Johnjofis" when I was little.

Ma nudge...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

35180. Patrick Henry


Well, it wasn't him, but I'll bet he was asked from time to time to say the quote: "Give me liberty, or give me death!" He had to do it. He was, after all, Patrick Henry.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

34254. William Daly


Having finished reading the Hull Village Cemetery, I moved onto New Jersey. You know, like you do.

I was working on a book project, called to the Navesink area, and awoke early one morning to spend a little time (notice I didn't say "kill some time") at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery. There, I ran into my second balloonist of the year.

William Daly, with the 13th Balloon Company, was on his way to the front in France in November 1918 (if he was still with his unit at the time) when a surprising thing happened: peace broke out. A total of six American balloon companies were on their way there when, suddenly, their services were no longer needed.

It was a good thing, too. Of the 1,642 ascensions made by American balloon troops in World War I, only 1,594 balloon crews came back down of their own volition. Three percent of the ascensions ended in combat losses.

I'm sure Mr. Daly made a success of life after the military, but what an odd trade to bring back home.

Friday, September 20, 2013

34129. Smith/Keith


If, like me, when you first saw the words on the Smith/Keith gravestone, you thought they had misspelled the famous phrase "Che sara,, sara," you would be half right.

If you think in Italian, or Latin, as Christopher Marlowe probably did when he wrote Doctor Faustus, this spelling is generally correct. But if you think in Spanish, you probably scratched your head a bit, envisioning the words as "Que sera, sera." Now, if you're thinking in that other language of romance, Doris Day, well, that's a little bit "Que sera, sera" as well. And that's probably where we get confused; we think Doris Day before Doctor Faustus on most days. So it goes in America.

But, no matter how you spell it, it comes out meaning the same: "Whatever will be, will be." And so it goes in cemeteries all around the world.