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Archive for November, 2010

110 years ago on this date, Oscar Wilde died in a hotel room in Paris. His remains and his famous monument covered in lipstick kisses by scores of visitors are in Paris, but Dublin honors their native son with a monument in Archbishop Ryan Park, just steps away from his birthplace.

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The statue lounges on a rock, well-dressed and smelling a flower.

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Across from him are two square pillars with statues on top. The pillars have been blazoned with all manner of Oscar Wilde’s pithy epigrams. I don’t know if this is endorsed or simply unusually educated graffiti.

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At Oxford Cemetery, faculty and staff of Miami University can be buried with university tombstones, but I didn’t need the university seal on this stone to know that the man buried here was associated with the university. When I was in graduate school, I walked or drove by Roudebush Hall every single day.

Wallace Pattison Roudebush

The years inscribed on either side of the university seal record his long tenure at the university. Roudebush graduated from Miami University and was almost immediately appointed as secretary to the university president in 1911. he served the university continuously until his death in 1956. Author Chris Maraschiello’s Wallace P. Roudebush: Spirit of the Institution argues that that administrator’s most lasting legacy is the look of Miami’s campus. For those who have never visited Miami University of Ohio, the campus is populated with red brick Georgian-style halls interspersed among a few older gray stone buildings, all sprawled across a significant amount of open green land and gardens. Roudebush was also respected as an honest and competent financial administrator, particularly devoted to student financial assistance. At the time of his death, he was the university’s financial manager.

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Charles Seebold

When I visited Old Carlisle Cemetery, I found this tombstone. Charles Seebold was only 14 when he died in the Civil War. Other than the information on the stone itself about him being a drummer boy for the 1st US Cavalry, I have not been able to find out much about this boy.

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There are strains of our cultural roots that focus on touch – we value the ability to “reach out and touch” something over just viewing it. Take Roman Catholic relics. For those not familar with the hierarchy of relics, there are three “classes.” First class relics are items from Christ’s life or the remains of a saint (pieces of the True Cross, bone fragments from a saint). Second class relics are items that a saint wore or used. Third class relics are things that have been touched to a first or second class relic: sanctity imbued by the act of touch.

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That is what I thought of when I read the little message on a post at the base of this monument.

Uhenheimer

What are the three things that this short paragraph wants to convey to you – 1. Ulsenheimer was a Civil War soldier, 2. He shook hands with President Abraham Lincoln, and 3. He is ancestor of a current local resident. I was just immediately struck by the emphasis on the handshake – of all the things in Ulsenheimer’s life to preserve, the act of having briefly shook hands was second only to his veteran status and his descendant.

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I am interpreting this as a cross. It’s a little abstract, but I really like it.

Merkle

Abstract cross?

I think that’s all we’re going to manage for today. Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and enjoys the long weekend!

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I will never lie to you an say that I didn’t wish for more time, but that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for what I received.

Pap feeding me while Mimi looks on

My father’s parents lived only thirty minutes’ drive from our house when I was a child. We called them Mimi and Pap because that’s what I named them, and I was the oldest grandchild. I don’t remember it, but for the first year of my life when my mother was still working, my grandmother watched me. Her factory had closed during Mom’s pregnancy, and Mimi didn’t go back to work so that she could be with me. I have vague memories of helping my grandfather lace his boots for work, but he was also retired by the time I was five years old.

It’s hard to summarize over twenty-five years of love.  Pap taught me to color and read to me.  Mimi drove me to nursery school and took me to lunch afterward.  They went to my school plays and concerts.  They burst with pride when I graduated from high school and college with honors.

Mimi, me and Pap

They were always there. Weekends, holidays, and for me summer and winter breaks in college. My grandmother and I talked on the phone every week that I wasn’t there. Pap passed away first, in January of 2006. Mimi was really lonely in those last months, her first time living alone in her entire life. She died just two weeks before Thanksgiving from surgical complications.

Pap's and Mimi's grave

They taught me the meaning of words like family and love and Thanksgiving.

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Our Little Charles

Walking through a cemetery gives you a peek into a world that is now gone. I think most of us go through our day to day life assuming that people who lived a century or so ago were pretty much like us. It takes a bit of a jolt to realize that those people’s worldview was radically different from our own, to the point where it would probably seem alien to us. We are shaped very much by the world we inhabit.

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We generally assume today that a child is going to outlive his or her parents. We have eliminated childhood diseases that once ravaged populations. We have treatments and adaptive devices for many illnesses and impairments that cannot be cured to allow people to live full lives.  Infant and child mortality have been so radically decreased by modern medicine that it is a shocking tragedy when someone dies in childhood.

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Yet all the children’s graves, often topped with lamb statues, remind us that for our people just a few generations ago, death in childhood was much, much more common. Still tragic, still devastating, but a tragedy repeated over and over in home after home.   And so today, when I walk through the cemetery and see the stone lambs, I think of my friends and family and especially of my healthy nieces and nephews, and I am so very grateful.

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Emily Jessup

For a little more than five years of my life, I supported myself, something I could not have achieved without the education I was able to receive. The past sometimes seems so distant that it is hard to remember that, had I been born just a century earlier in the same place, my sex might have prevented me from receiving any more than a rudimentary education. It is exceedingly unlikely that I would have been able to obtain a college education, let alone a master’s degree.

Helen Peabody

I stand on the shoulders of educators like Helen Peabody, Emily Jessup, and Caroline D. White, women who not only fought for their own right to be educated, but then taught the next generation after them. They lived in a time when women’s very capacity for learning was questioned. They inhabited a society that accused educated women of neglecting their natural destiny and damaging the reproductive systems merely by learning.

Caroline D. White

these women made what were probably in some case hard choices, choices that aligned them to their academic institution more closely that most women are today.  They paved the way for myself and countless other women. This post is but a small token of my gratitude.

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If you enjoy this blog, you probably appreciate my feet, too. Clad in boots or sneakers, they get me around the cemetery, whether its down in the vault at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, or up the steep hill of Ashtabula’s Chestnut Grove Cemetery. They’re pretty camera shy, but occasionally I discover my feet have snuck into a photo.

Eliakim Nash

And on that note, I need to go shopping for a new pair of sneakers and an extra pair of boots soon to keep my feet happy.

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This is Willoughby Village Cemetery’s most famous grave. It was erected and maintained by donations from the local townspeople.

In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve in 1933, a young woman arrived in Willoughby and checked into a local boarding house. According to the landlady, Mary Judd, the woman came downstairs around noon, asked about local church services, wished her a merry Christmas, and departed. The young woman was dressed entirely in blue that complemented her blue eyes and was friendly to those she passed in the streets. Within minutes, she stepped into the path of an oncoming train.

In memory of the girl in blue

The citizens of Willoughby were saddened and captivated by the circumstances that would lead a pretty, friendly young woman to commit suicide by train (according to eyewitnesses, her actions appeared deliberate). She carried no identification – the only clue in her purse was a train ticket to Corry, Pennsylvania. They hoped that family would come to claim her, and when no one did, they paid for her funeral and monument themselves and maintained it. It was not until 1993 that she was identified as Josephine “Sophie” Klimczak.

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Here are articles about the girl in blue.  Even today, her grave is well maintained, shaded by a donated tree, and surrounded by flowers.

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