Thursday, February 28, 2013

5680. Joshua L. Higgins


Onto the Hingham Center Cemetery! I once wrote a blog post, back in 2009, about walking the neighborhood surrounding this cemetery, as it's always been such an important piece of earth for my family. My dad worked at the gas station as a kid. The first love of my life lived around the corner. The resident barber who does my hair today, Pete, did my dad's, my grandfather's, my uncles', my great uncles', etc.

But I had never walked the cemetery. Go figure. Now that I have, I have some stories to tell. We'll start with Joshua Higgins.

To his friends, he was Captain Joshua, the undeniable proof, of course, being the large anchor carved into his gravestone. Captain Higgins had charge of the packet schooner Bell, probably mostly in the coasting trade, sticking close to shore on short journeys along the Massachusets coast.

So salt water ran through his veins. When he passed away at age 74 in 1881, his family remembered him with the words, "And there was no more sea." The epitaph was not original, but came from the Book of Revelation, King James version of the Bible: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea." While Bible teachers may debate the original intended meaning of the passage, there's no denying what the family meant by using it. The sea had been taken from Captain Higgns. But, in essence, the sea would never be the same again either, as Captain Higgins had been taken from the sea.

I'm starting to see that a proper epitaph is all about our life's passions.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

5652. Laura Krasausk


To date, through the first 5000+ stones, I've come across many military men. But Laura Krasausk is the first military woman.

World War II put great demands upon the American people. The stress of sending men off to fight was one thing. Then there was rationing, although, coming out of the Depression, folks were probably much more prepared to deal with such hardships than they would be today.

My own great aunt, who passed away just a few weeks ago, was a Rosie the Riveter. Thousands of American women took on jobs traditionally held by men, as the men marched off to fight. They worked in the defense industries, and eventually even for the branches of what we now call the Department of Defense (funny how that changed from the Department of War...).

Corporal Krasausk was one of 150,000 American women who served with the Women's Army Corps in Word War II. General Douglas MacArthur called them his best soldiers, which may have been uttered for political or motivational reasons, but he stated it nonetheless. And these weren't just paper soldiers. Although not used in combat, WACs were present in many of the major theaters of the war overseas.

I'm sure I'll find many more female military members as I go, but Corporal Krasausk gets my first salute.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5582. John E. Dunn


And we're back to this one. Our friend Robert Miller back in Pennsylvania told us that he had tried his best, a simple statement about a simple mantra in a world that doesn't always make life so simple. Here it was again in Hanover, but from another angle, recognition from the other side of a life well-lived. According to the friends and family of John Dunn, "He gave us his best."

I remember being disappointed that I hadn't score a goal in a hockey game as a kid, as I had a clear shot, but couldn't bury it. My dad stopped the car on the way home so he could look into my eyes and talk to me, and said, "Did you try your hardest?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"That's all that matters," he said.

I learned that day that no matter what you do in life, you can't ask for more than that.

Monday, February 25, 2013

5440. Norman and Hazel Robbins


The Robbins family has hit on a short and sweet fact about death. It can't conquer all.

Yes, death takes our loved ones physically from us, and that pain can be unbearable. Just the thought that I will never hear my dad's voice again, calling me from Florida, taunting me about how much snow we have in New England, laughing in my face over the fact that he's watering his tomatoes while I'm waist deep in the white stuff, bragging that he's swimming naked (again? thanks, dad, really needed that visual) in his pool while I'm wearing four layers of clothes just to walk to the car in the morning...well, you get the idea. It haunts me.

But thankfully, death doesn't erase memories. As the Robbins note on their stone, even in death, our loved ones are "Just a Dream Away." It's like the Everly Brothers sang all those years ago (coincidentally, in one of my dad's favorite songs), "When I want you in my arms, when I want you and all your charms, all I have to do is dream."

I know the notion has helped carry me through the past year.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

5266 and 5267. David Richardson and Carroll Everson


And another topic rears its head: fraternal organizations.

It's not hard to find the Masons in the cemeteries. Many (I obviously have no idea if it's all) have the Masonic symbol, the tools of the architect, emblazoned on their stones. Until recently, I had no idea what being a Mason meant, but over  the past few years I've been doing a lot of lecturing for them, and have found out. Let's just say they do good work, and for all the right reasons.

So here, side by side in Hanover (side by each, if you're reading this in Rhode Island), we have two members of fraternal organizations who left their legacies on their stones. Richardson was "Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, 1984-1986" and Everson was "Grand Patriarch of the Grand Encampment I.O.O.F. of Mass., 1941." For those of you counting, that's the International Order of Odd Fellows.

I often wonder what 70-year-old John Galluzzo will be up to if he reaches that age, whether or not he will have joined up with one of these teams. I doubt it, only because 42-year-old John is so ridiculously busy. The way I've always seen it, the work that I do doesn't come with an expiration date. I figure as long as I'm generating ideas, I'll be executing plans to turn them into reality. So I doubt you'll find membership to a fraternal organization on my tombstone - but who the heck really knows? But I'm glad there are men and women who dedicate their lives to such causes, like David and Carroll.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

5228. Joseph Deeley


And speaking of domestics, we come to an eerie entry near to the topic. Joseph has no date of birth, which I find kind of spooky. Every single stone I've seen so far in this project - more than 5,000 of them - has had at leats the years of birth and death. I think, though, that no one knew when Joseph was born, and were probably themselves surprised to realize that fact when he died.

"Died Aug. 28, 1926. A faithful servant in the Gifford family for many years."

I don't think I'll ever be at the point of needing, or affording, servants on permanent payroll, but if I do, I hope I'm not so detached from them that I don't know simple things about them. What I do like about this stone is the word "in." It would have been so easy to say "servant of the Gifford family," but the Giffords chose to say he was "in" the family. It's a nice send-off for a man who will forever remain ageless.

4972. Donna Lee Baker


"Domestic goddess." Mrs. Baker was a domestic goddess? I love it!

Friday, February 22, 2013

4882. Anthony Ribeiro


And we finally come to the topic of pet names. And I don't mean like Rover and Fluffy.

Anthony Ribeiro had the sad duty of saying goodbye to his wife about a decade before he passed on, so I'm guessing that he's the one who put the words on the tombstone: "Love Always My Honey Peanut."

Let me just say this: it takes guts, guts, I tell ya, to share your pet name for your wife with the world in permanent fashion. All I know is that if my wife died and I put her pet name on her tombstone, she would kill me. Wait...if I died and had her pet name put onto the tomnbstone, she would kill me. Wait...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

4742. Jerry Williams


Yes, that Jerry Williams, the "Dean of Talk Radio."

While it's not always a slam dunk, you can usually tell that somebody has made something of their life when you can find them on the internet with ".org" after their name. Jerry was one of the people who created the talk radio format. Imagine that: somebody had to come up with it. We just take it for granted that people have been speaking into microphones on the air forever (well, since the 1920s) and that the format just always existed. Not so.

Jerry bounced around a bit until landing permanently in Boston, and got the locals riled up on the topics of the 1960s - and man, were there a lot of them - '70s (interluded with a stop in New York),'80s and '90s. He was loved and hated at the same time, a good indicator that a) people were listening, and b) he knew how to get at the heartstrings of his listeners.

So there he lies in Duxbury, silenced, the final irony. He left us with a few last words. One side of his bench reads, "Hello New England," and the other "They're out there," the signature line he used after hanging up on a wacko caller. On the back? "I never had a dinner." Constantly attending dinners for politicians on the campaign trail, he would joke how no one had ever thrown him one. He admitted in an interview that he stole the line from comedian Red Buttons.

Maybe that's the key. Perhaps I need to develop a signature line of my own. I mean, I'll never be a Jerry Williams, but maybe I can start now putting together a few words that I can repeat every day for the rest of my life, something the world will recognize as belonging to me and only me.

I'll get right on that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

4618. Charles Jackson Hoover


And just like that, I think Jan Ostrum has slipped into second place. I went back to Duxbury to the Mayflower Cemetery, and found a very newly completed marker for Mr. Hoover, and his wife Joan Katherine Hoover, who predeceased him by a year and a half.

It's a beautiful stone, glossy, with a yacht and crossed tennis rackets drawn onto it, something I see more of every day. We're taking our interests with us to the grave in more ways than ever, letting the world know, just through these simple symbols, what was important to us.

Her words are certainly nice: "Best friend, lover, wife." If my wife goes first, which I doubt she will, she'll probably have something similar on hers. On the bottom of the stone are the same words we find on the American quarter: "In God We Trust."

But Charles, now he must have had something to do with his term of endearment. "Bewitched, captivated husband."

Bewitched?! Had she been alive to bury him, would she have allowed that to be on there? Was this his final joke on her (in what seemed like a beautiful, loving life together)? You can actually put something like that on there? That's allowed?

Oh, I have to think about this one...I could write it into an agreement with a funeral home so it couldn't be changed by anybody. I have to seriously think about this one...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

4482. Carol A. Butler


"If Love Could Have Saved You, You Never Would Have Died."

I am not qualified to discuss this term of endearment. There is no way I could ever improve it.

4342. Nicholas Antonizick



"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings!" Do I even need to say it? The most replayed Christmas movie of all time (although 24-hour running of A Christmas Story has probably skewed that record), It's a Wonderful Life, gave us this line. And it's a comforting way to deal with loss, for sure. Good choice.

Monday, February 18, 2013

4322. Catherine Ennis


"She gave us some books,
Then she said that is that,
And then she was gone
With a tip of her hat."

I can't find the quote anywhere, so I'd love to assign it to Catherine's family, but I don't have the authority to officially do that for posterity...yet. My first thought is "librarian," but my second is Mary Poppins. There's just something magical in the way the words come together and create a vision of a woman smiling as she performs the act and turns away to walk into the distance.

It's also the first reference I've seen to books on a tombstone, and I'm thinking they have a place on mine somewhere. Let's just say I have a substantial library, and not get my wife and swear words involved with this. I've written a few, about 40 at this point. They'll be my legacy, for sure. But how does that translate into granite?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

4312. Vito and Victoria Cirone



Now this was a tombstone I could sink my teeth into. If there's one thing I lament about my childhood, it's that I never learned my family's ancestral language, Italian. But I now know why. My great-grandmother, whom I met, stepped off the boat in 1900 from the old country. She was Italian. Her daughter, my grandmother, was Italian-American. My dad, American Italian. I'm an American. (In actuality, we all know there are only two types of people in the world: Italians and those who wish they were.)

But yes, there has been a tremendous loss of ancestral identity with my family, and, I'm sure, many others of many nationalities. The great American melting pot is a grand thing, but keeping a little Old World flavor would have been an even grander thing for me. So when I saw the words on the back of the Cirone's marker in Italian - "To Sarai Sembre Nel Nostro Cuore & Non Sarai Mai Dimenticato Ti Vogliamo Tanto Bene" - I was suddenly very proud.

It doesn't say much that I haven't heard before: "To be always in our heart and never be forgotten. Love you so much." But it's in the language they brought with them. Their love was never Americanized. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

4182. Jan G. Ostrum



We have a leader in the clubhouse!

As if the words on the front of her tombstone weren't good enough: "Heaven will never be the same again," Jan has something even better on the back: "I want a second opinion."

Haha!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

4132. Barbara F. Murphy



Dreams are what drive me. I come up with a new one every day. I can't fulfill them all, but the good ones stick. Like walking around cemeteries for a year morbidly searching for my own epitaph. Some dreams you just can't let get away.

Seems Barbara was just like me, other than being Irish and a woman (actually, I'm 1/8th, so half of that joke holds no water): "Wife, Mother and Friend Who Dreamed the Impossible Dream."

So, the question is, of course, what was the Impossible Dream? When Barbara was in her prime, "The Impossible Dream" was a song sung by Don Quixote in the musical Man of La Mancha. That was in 1965. Plenty of people covered it, from Connie Francis to Tom Jones to Jim Nabors, as Gomer Pyle, on the TV show of that name.

In Boston, it meant much more just a few years later. Led by Jim Lonborg and Carl Yastrzemski and Reggie Smith and Tony Conigliaro and Rico Petrocelli (I could go on), the Sox went from last place in the American League in 1966 to the World Series in 1967, "The Impossible Dream" becoming their anthem. They're still today, 46 years later, called the Impossible Dream Team.

But I'll bet Barbara's dream had little to do with the 1967 postseason. At least I've never seen her name on the roster (maybe she was in the bullpen?). But it doesn't really matter what that dream was. All I need to know I learned from her tombstone. She was a dreamer, my kind of person.

Friday, February 15, 2013

3772. William Capell



In his defense, he died in 1899. I know that if I'm looking for humor on a gravestone, it's not coming from someone who lived almost exactly the Victorian Era.

Even so, my immediate reaction on seeing the words was, "Dude, why you gotta be so harsh?"

But, upon further review, the call of the field was reversed. When I read "In the midst of life, we are in death," I figured I had a pince-nez wearing, bald pate showing frowner who just went through life dourly. I mean I could see it, black suit, sipping a little cup of tea while looking down his nose at the Sunday Times, tsk-tsking the young people of the day whuile checking his pocketwtatch to see how much time he had 'til he had to wash his neck before heading to church.

But I'm man enough to admit that I could - possibly, maybe - be wrong.

The line comes from The Book of Common Prayer, under "The Burial of the Dead": "When they come to the Grave, while the Corpse is made ready to be laid into the earth, the Priest shall say, or the Priest and Clerks shall sing: Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay. In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?"

So in the greater context, I get it. But still, whatever happened to the sentiment we picked up a few days ago - "Death is but one moment, life is so many?" Takes all kinds, I guess.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

3609. Ryan Family


And on the topic of love, there comes this line, thanks to the Ryan family: "Better loved ye canna be."

It's another lyric, but not one from some modern-day pop crooner or hip, slick rock'n'roll daddy-o. No, instead, it's from an old Scottish folk song written for Bonne Prince Charlie.

There's a long and sad and quite gruesome tale about Charles Edward Stuart, Scottish pretender to the British throne, arriving on the Scottish mainland in 1745 after familial exile, rousing troops and forcing war on the English in an attempt to regain the throne for the Jacobites. He's thwarted, his Highlanders savagely tortured and killed as he flees. A lamented figure, Charlie inspired many songs, including "Will Ye No Come Back Again?" The lyric appears in this tune, which was made famous to modern fans of the genre by Irish balladeers like Tommy Makem.

When taken completely out of their historical context and placed on the marker of a loved one, well, better words there canna be...And, Ryans? Nice touch with the bottle of Guinness!

3551 and 3552. Joseph and Anna Dugas


So we've already gone down his road: "Gone Fishin'." But what about hers? "Still Knittin'."

Sweet! (Happy Valentine's Day!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

3520. Susie J. Reese



There it is again! "Bright blue eyes." I've already postulated that we don't have enough descriptive information on our tombstones. For only the second time in 3500 stones have I found a reference to eye color, and both times it's been blue.

I'm starting to think I need to start thinking about a movement to start putting vital statistics on the sides of our tombstones: height, hair color, eye color...we'll skip the weight. We'll call it the Galluzzo Chart, and it will help all of us project ourselves just that little bit farther into the future. Imagine! "Robert Smith, 1681-1734, 6'2", auburn hair, hazel eyes. He fell down a well that a shorter man could have crawleth out of."

I think, though, that there are those folks we don't even need descriptions for, so they can save their money. I recent met another John Galluzzo, at Disney, of all places. His wife looked at me and said, "You look like a Galluzzo." I said, "I know, right? 6'2", auburn hair, hazel eyes..."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

3452. Barbara Ann Wyman


I haven't decided if it takes a special person to understand the ultimate finality of death, or just someone who's lived long enough to get on the other side of the wisdom gap. I think it may take a little bit of both. At this point in my life, death still pisses me off.

So I don't think I'm where Barbara was when she passed. And I'm not sure, of course, who put the words on her tombstone (and I don't mean with the chisel), but they're certainly uplifting: "Death is one moment, life is so many of them."

Of course, when I say I don't know who put them there, I don't mean I don't know who wrote them in the first place. That was Tennessee Williams, who penned them for a completely forgettable 1962 play about a rich, dying old woman who caught a young man trespassing on her estate. It was called The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, and the old woman's name was Flora Goforth. Ugh. Tennessee gave us so much better than that one. But, if nothing else, he gave us this line, which denotes a spectacularly positive and confident look at the world we live and die in. Carpe Diem, like Robin Williams said in Dead Poets Society. Seize the day.

Monday, February 11, 2013

3435. Uncle Bob Kraus


YES!

In a sea of morose stoicism, amidst the occasional ripple of ingenuity and creativity, I've found a wave. Sergeant Robert Kraus, U.S. Army, veteran of the Korean War, left us his military legacy and something so much grander. His tombstone is in the shape of a suitcase, complete with engraved straps and a metal handle protruding from the top. On the stone are the words: "I never unpacked my bag. I am only here for a visit. Uncle Bob."

There may be an overall religious connotation to the design - it's the afterlife that's everlasting, not the time on earth - or it may mean that the cemetery was but a brief stopping point. Either way, it's original, inventive and I think downright fun, if not laughing in the face of death, at least laughing alongside it and its inevitability.

Good for you, Uncle Bob.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

3427. Paul J. Edge II


And Paul Edge explains why the Ballums gave us their advice.

Paul was the son of a military man. Paul, Sr., served in the Army in World War II, as did so much of his generation. Paul, Jr., served with the Navy in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart, but made the ultimate sacrifice to do so. On January 30, 1968, he was "Killed While Aiding Two Wounded Marines in Vietnam."

I have to tell you that since my dad passed away early in 2012, I've developed a growing hate of the Vietnam War. And it's weird, I don't hate the Vietnamese people, nor the Americans who created and carried out the war. I hate the war and what it's done to our society, what it did to my dad. It took good, solid young men like Paul away from their families, and ultimately for what purpose? The greatest tragedy of all for the Edge family was that the son died before the father, which in a perfect world would never happen.

Paul, Jr., is also remembered by a Biblical passage which I've seen before, and I know will come up again in this study: "Greater love than this no man hath; that a man lay down his life for his friends." If only he never had to. I think I've found another hero to add to my personal list.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

3426. Ballum



I didn't catch the first name, but I sure caught the quote. This one falls into the advice category, which seems to be growing: "Embrace the moment. It's all we have."

The longer I live, the more I realize the truth of this notion. Life passes quickly unless we take certain cliches to heart, like "stop and smell the roses." Folks have told me repeatedly to savor every day of the youth of my boys, and boy, I'll tell you, I am doing so. I know how quickly my life has passed by, and how much I have felt cheated out of certain experiences by forces not in my control. As such, my mantra has become "Just do it" (sorry, Nike). If something unusual comes my way - a chance to travel to some far off place, to use my skills to aid someone in need, whatever - I'm on my way. I say yes to adventure, to experiences I may never get again.

As long as I'm in the moment, I have to. At 42, I'm more than halfway to the American male life expectancy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

3397. Nancy Elizabeth Rooney and James Vincent Rooney



The placement of color photographs on tombstones is increasingly becoming part of the American way of remembrance. Many stones are now delivered with them in place. And I'll have to admit that in my heart of hearts, despite the fact I've been asking for more information from our markers - I want us all to be remembered for the people we are/were - it spooks me out a little bit. Despite that, I'm all for the practice.

The Rooney family apparently added the images to the family marker years after the fact, bringing a touch of beauty to an already beautiful stone. And each of the lost family members, both of whom died very young, is remembered with a few words beside their image. For Nancy, "Our little angel." For James, "Our peace-loving man." While the former may seem generic (as in used by others), it certainly is heartfelt. The latter is a product of the times, the 1960s and '70s that were James' days. Both are loving ways to describe obviously loved kids. In their case, thanks to the family, you can see it in their smiles.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

3340. Charles H. Whitcomb



Back in the Hanover Center Cemetery. It's a biggee, and will probably take several trips.

And we have another song lyric! For Charles' sake, I hope there wasn't the latent sarcasm in his words, at least in the way that the lyricist intended them: "Sure Nice Talkin' to You Dad."

Once again, as I'm finding to be the trend, the choice was timely. Charles passed on in 1975, and Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle" came out on Verities and Balderdash in 1974. Is there anybody out there who doesn't know the tune?

3286. Hannah Cranch Bond


So, I've found a doozy, a stone that tells a fantastic story.

I'll admit that at this point, I'm torn. I dig conciseness, as I've said, but I think in the cases of those folks who truly accomplished something in life, something we deem to be historical, I like a little explanation. Hannah's tombstone is wearing away, but there are some very poignant words thereon:

"Brilliant and cultivated, ____ and true, ___courageous person, during five and thirty dangerous years devoted all to extinguish American slavery. She rejoiced in that salvation which placed the poor upon glorious thrones among princes."

And it all checks out. Hannah was married to Noah Fifield, and traded letters with William Lloyd Garrison, the editor of the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator, in her position of corresponding secretary of the Female Emancipation Society of Weymouth, Massachusetts. Her name even appears in the Congressional record, as leading 243 Weymouth women in protesting the annexation of Texas to the United States in 1837.

Wowzers. That's a pretty cool legacy, if you ask me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

2979. David P. Ruggles



David Ruggles died on his motorcycle on a warm summer night on Sea Street in Quincy in 1980, in an unexplained crash that took a second life as well. Though he lived a short life, he obviously impacted the lives of his friends.

I get the sense that David, or "Jew," as he was called by those friends, according to the face of his tombstone, was what we would call today a "biker," a "motorcycle enthusiast" as described by Andy Dick on the sitcom Talk Radio. As with firefighters and other groups, there is a certain feeling of fraternity that develops among bikers. Some end up in gangs, others are just more loosely organized as a brotherhood. And that's where the words on the back of David's tombstone come in:

"Some called you an outlaw,
Some called you no good,
But, we know you knew
The meaning of brotherhood."

Fraternal love - and love in this instance can still be manly enough for even bikers - can run deep, creating fierce loyalties. While Ruggles may have been that outlaw, perceived or not (and I don't intend to search criminal records databases to prove or disprove it), he was loved by his friends, and that's what stands for eternity.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2794. Eugene C. DiRamio



Picking a passion in life is not always easy. A lot of us are forced at about 20 years old to make the big choice. Pick your major. Know the course of study you want to follow for the next two years and plan to use that knowledge for the rest of your life. We know you just stopped popping the teenage zits on your face. We know you're just now truly discovering the opposite sex. We know you're living on your own for the first time. Suck it up. Pick your major.

But for some, childhood dreams easily translate to career choices. Sure, we all want to play left field for the Red Sox, but when one guy holds that job for twenty years, how much of a chance does that leave for the rest of us? Now, I don't know if Mr. DiRamio grew up wanting these words on his tombstone, but it sure seems like in the end he wouldn't have had anything else placed there: "Lived a firefighter, died a firefighter."

I had friends who wanted to be firemen when they were young, and one who even told me he wanted to be a fire engine when he grew up. (I've kept a close eye on him, and get worried every time he gets a sunburn). Firefighting is a job that has changed over time - better building codes, fewer fires, more EMT-related work, etc. - but it's one that fosters fraternity, camaraderie. It's a badge of honor to be a firefighter, and Lieutenant DiRamio wore that badge until his final days and, thanks to the design of his gravemarker, beyond them.

Monday, February 4, 2013

2707. Donald Cumming



The Cumming family used four words to describe their beloved Donald. They've been used as the title of a somewhat successful British sitcom (for those of you wanting to save a breath, that's "Britcom"), used many times over to describe the lead character in Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, but never, surprisingly, actually used by Shakespeare, who practically wrote the English language: "A Prince Among Men."

The word "prince" can go either way in modern American society. While "prince among men" has a connotation of class and a life well led, had they put "This guy was a real price" on his stone, well, we would have looked at him a little differently.

The good thing for the rest of us is that we may possibly be able to live up to Mr. Cumming's legacy. The do-it-yourself website wikihow.com has a page dedicated to "How to become a prince among men" in 13 steps. But, honestly, I'd rather do it the way Donald did - by earning the title on my own.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

2659. George Stewart Loud


Having finished with the Woodside Cemetery, the first one I've ever "read" from end to end, I moved onto the Village Cemetery in Weymouth.

There is a famous poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson that sailors the world over have adopted as their final words, the theme of which has been shortened to just three words: crossing the bar. Many times when leaving port, mariners must avoid that final shallow water obstacle, a sand bar formed by the outflow of a river. It can be the most treacherous part of a journey. From that point on, deep water can mean smooth sailing.

Those same sailors have taken the event into the realm of metaphor. Crossing the bar has come to symbolize sailing away never to return, or death. It's the last sign of respect for a sailor; he hasn't died, he's crossed the bar.

Whether George Stewart Loud sailed or not, he carries the poem on his tombstone, shared with his wife Jennie Mae Loud:

"Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I set out to sea."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

2527. Hazel Elizabeth Ruiter Sickles


I thought that I had another "lyric caught in time" motif with Hazel, but I'm off by a few years. When I was a kid, before the widespread use of cable television, we had a single channel system called Starcase. Starcase showed full length movies - without commercials (before that the closest I got to commercial-free movies at home was the Creature Double Feature on Channel 56 and TV38's Movie Loft with Dana Hersey, with special events like "Don Knotts Week"). We could manipulate the system so the voices from Starcase came through the audio as we watched any other channel on regular television. I once had Captain Kirk from Star Trek yelling "Take this job and shove it!" in Johnny Paycheck's voice.

Anyway, Starcase introduced me to the sweeping beauty of the 1966 film Dr. Zhivago. Learning to play the organ at that time, I naturally swayed to the theme music, known as "Lara's Theme,"
later to be developed into the song title quoted on Hazel's marker: "Somewhere My Love."

I don't know if it was the Connie Francis version I heard, or the Ray Conniff singers, but the moment I looked down and saw the words, the song started in my head. "Somewhere my love, there will be songs to sing..."

So, so beautiful...

2440. Herman E. Daley


And then there is the odd story, found here and there, of reinterment. Herman E. Daley, Private, Company A, 101st U.S. Engineers (a unit with a long history here in Massachusetts), died on October 4, 1918, of wounds received in action north of Verdun (France), part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive of World War I. The sadness of this tale is that the war would end just about a month later, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Herman was originally buried in France, and his gravemarker in Cohasset reflected that tale. But carved into the stone under that inscription are the words: "Returned and buried here in 1921."

If only all of our soldiers lost in action overseas could be so treated.

Friday, February 1, 2013

2433. William R. Figueiredo



Well, it had to happen eventually, and it looks like Mr. Figueiredo gets first dibs: "Gone Fishin'."

Love it.

2303. Henry F. Keating



I guess there are some tombstones I will just never be privileged to understand, and I fully believe that's perfectly fine. Families will always have inside stories that will never reach the internet. What's that, you say? Not every single word ever spoken or written is on the internet? How can that be???

But Henry has left a two-word mystery with such an enticing clue: Name, vital dates, "Peter Rabbit."

The timing is good. Henry was born in 1875. Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit came out in 1902, so the story appeared during his lifetime. But what's the connection? Did Henry make a habit of stealing vegetables from Mr. McGregor's garden? Did he once rescue young rabbits from the hands of Tommy Brock, the notorious badger?

When we were children, my sister, brother and I had a full collection of the Beatrix Potter books, small, white-jacketed volumes in a red library case. While we loved the stories of Squirrel Nutkin and Mr. Tod and the rest, we found them a bit spooky at times, a bit violent for children. But we read them all, repeatedly. So I'm not coming at this story blindly. But I just can't find the link. Frustrated, I am, I say like Master Yoda, but with a smile.