Archive for December, 2010

With my December trip to Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, I was able to find new and interesting photographs of Celtic crosses.

The Hobson family plot is marked by one.


This cross is marked by its simplicity – no intricate carving here, just the smooth lines of the stone.


And finally, in a much different media, we have the Thomson cross. From behind, I was trying to figure out why a cross would have a spiked circle. It wasn't until we got close that I could identify the metal leaves.



The individual markers in front of this sculpture identify one of the family members as being an artist and sculptor (I am not posting it here because the marker does not indicate he is deceased). I wonder if this is one of his own pieces, placed when the first member of the family passed away in the 1990s.

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I am particularly fascinated by stones that tell you what someone did in life. I found some more occupation stones recently. (Some photos are a little fuzzy to me – apologies, not sure what was happening there.)

Robert Sheldon Wagner was an Episcopal priest.


George E. Wilhelm was a civic engineer.


Glenda Killen was a registered nurse, and brings another thought to mind. Occupational stones are much more common for men than women, but I wonder if we will see a difference in that over the next few decades.


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Today is the anniversary of the Ashtabula Bridge Disaster. On this date in 1876, a train plummeted into a ravine outside Ashtabula, Ohio, after the bridge it was traveling on collapsed. In the Cleveland area, you can visit a trio of gravesites related to this tragedy.

The bridge that collapsed was the creation of two men, both of whom were implicated as negligent in the tragedy but never faced any legal consequences. Amasa Stone was the architect. His own suicide several years after the accident has been attributed to it, but it is not clear what precipitated his actions. He rests in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.



Charles Collins was the engineer. Officially, the story is that he committed suicide after testifying about the accident, but evidence pointed to his death being a homicide. His family mausoleum is within site of the marker for the unidentified victims of the disaster.


Those victims of the tragedy who could not be identified (the train cars plunged into icy water from significant height, and then caught fire from the lamps and stove inside) lie under this monument in Chestnut Grove Cemetery.



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Places I want to visit

Reading other cemetery blogs lets me learn about other cemeteries I want to visit someday. Here are a few, with links to the posts that sparked my interest.

Burial Hill – Plymouth, Massachusetts – Cemetery overlooking Plymouth Harbor dating back to the passengers from the Mayflower.

Bellefontaine Cemetery – St. Louis, Missouri – Bellefontaine is the final resting place of many prominent Americans, including suffragist Phoebe Couzins, the Busch brewing family, explorer William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame), and Civil War General Don Carlos Buell. My great great grandfather William H. Ilsley is supposed to be buried there. Bellefontaine is adjacent to Roman Catholic Calvary Cemetery, whose famous residents include author Kate Chopin, Dred Scott (Supreme Court case Dred Scott v. Sandford), playwright Tennessee Williams, and Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Burying Point – Salem, Masschusetts – Oldest graveyard in Salem, dating back to the 17th century.

Bunhill Field – London, United Kingdom – Burial ground that is unconsecrated and has been used for those who died outside of the Church of England, including authors Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan and Society of Friends’ founder George Fox.

Trafalgar Cemetery – Gibraltar – The cemetery contains memorials for sailors in Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson’s fleet who died from wounds sustained during the naval battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

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One of the most common relationship descriptors in a cemetery that you will find is “mother.” Seeing these tombstones makes me remember how lucky I am to still have my mother.

Me and Mom

My mother and I have always been close. When I was very young, I stayed with my grandmother while Mom worked, but Mom made the decision to stay home once my brother was born. I had a stay-at-home Mom until I was a freshman in high school, when she went back to work as a secretary at one of the middle schools. So my childhood is filled with memories of playing with Mom.

Me and Mom

My mother taught me my love of baking, letting me mix the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie batter. She read to me, not realizing that she was teaching me to read – she finally realized one night that I was not reciting the Nancy Drew mystery from memory, but was in fact reading along with her. She told me when I was singing sharp or flat, much to my annoyance at the time – even though I know she was right.

On cold winter days, she would call us in from the cold to hot cocoa fresh off the stove. She sat through countless school concerts and plays. Once I went to college, we talked every week, and we began to save certain activities like decorating the Christmas tree or going to certain stores for when I was home to do them with her. She hates a photo I have of her from my college graduation because her make-up is smudged and her eyes are red, but I like it because I know she was crying because she was proud of me.

Mom and me

We talked more often when I was in graduate school and living alone than we do now. We both have full time jobs and active social lives and husbands, and she is a grandmother, but there are still times when I have to call her because she is the only one who will understand what I need to talk about.

Today is my mother’s birthday. I am so very grateful for the many years we have spent together and for the times yet to come. I hope that it will be a very long time before I have to try to sum up in a few words for posterity what my mother meant to me and how much I loved her.

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The Olney family has a monument in Kirtland South Cemetery that illustrates a facet of life in 19th century America. On the front of the monument, you start with “father” and “mother,” although only father is named and revealed to be buried in Illinois.


Continuing to the right around the base of the obelisk, you find the names of daughters of previously mentioned father and mother, and where they drew their final breaths.


The next panel contains three more names – Oliver, Justin, and Emily – whose relationship to the rest of the memorialized is unclear. Oliver is clearly listed as being buried in Iowa.


A fourth panel, three more names of unspecified relation, with at least one clearly not buried in Kirtland.


This family, presumably originating in Kirtland, splintered as members moved westward and died there, never to return to the family fold in bodily form. Our modern experience of computers and telephones has done much to dull the aches that must have been common – leaving your family and friends to move into strange territory, not knowing if you would ever see them again. You might send letters or telegrams, not knowing when or if your loved ones would receive them. And yet, some member of the Olney family attempted to bring the family together as a unit again in the cemetery, reuniting their names if not their bodies in a fulfillment of the “we’ll all meet again” expressed just above the surname on the monument.

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In honor of the holiday and the season, one of my favorite Christmas carols and some Lakeview Cemetery angels to guard over those who have gone before…

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
-Edmund Sears

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Namy Angel

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Haserot Angel in Snow

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.


Corner Angel

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

And the Schmitt angel, holding the poinsettia that inspired me to write my very first real post on this blog:
Mildred and Emma Schmitt tombstone (4 of 4)

Peace on the earth, goodwill to men…whatever you celebrate or have celebrated this holiday season, I hope that it has brought you joy and peace, and I hope you find happiness in the new year.

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For those of us who celebrate it, it’s Christmas Eve. This is an evening celebrated in the cultures I have lived in as a time of family and of love, even for those who celebrate this season in a secular fashion. But Christmas Eve has always held a hint of mourning, too, because the Christmas I remember most clearly from my childhood was the one where Mr. Brehm died.

I grew up on a cul-de-sac, but I grew up calling it “The Circle.” I don’t remember whether we kids invented that, whether the neighborhood called it that, or whether my parents used it because cul-de-sac was a mouthful for a small child. There were only three houses on The Circle – the Linns, ours, and the Brehms. Both the Linns and the Brehms were old enough to be my grandparents and had been married for years. Their children were grown and lived elsewhere, but neither couple seemed to mind living next to a house with three noisy children who bicycled, skateboarded and scootered around The Circle and probably wandered across their property lines while playing in the woods. They waved and smiled when they saw us, and they performed the requisite amount of fussing over how much we’d grown and how old we were now whenever we knocked on their doors for Trick or Treat or the latest school fundraiser.

And then, one Christmas morning while we were opening our gifts, we saw the flashing lights of the ambulance on The Circle. As we hung wide-eyed over the back of the couch looking out the living room windows, we watched as the paramedics rushed inside and, after a few minutes, wheeled a covered gurney out much more slowly. Mr. Brehm had died in his sleep sometime Christmas Eve. My father broke the news to us a little later when he went to check on them and spoke to Mrs. Brehm.

Mrs. Brehm didn’t stay in her house long after that. Some family came and helped her pack up their things and she moved away. I wonder how Christmas felt after that for her. No matter how much loving family or how many caring friends she had around her, Christmas was always going to be the anniversary of her husband’s death, and that couldn’t have been easy.

I thought of Mrs. Brehm when I found this tombstone, for a child who was born on one holiday and died on another.
Neal William Walker

How did Easter and Christmas feel for them, I wonder, after little Neal died? I have to assume they were at least somewhat observant Christians, else they would have recorded the dates of his birth and death rather than the corresponding Christian holidays. How did they cope with times when a Christian is supposed to rejoice and be grateful when the very day was permanently entangled with personal grief?

“Step softly, a dream lies buried here.”

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Angels from Lake View Cemetery, with lyrical accompaniment…

Ellenberger Monument

Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing over the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains.

Gloria in excelsis Deo, in excelsis Deo.

Braun Mausoleum

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the glad some tidings be
Which inspire your Heav’nly song?

D. S. Possons

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.


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Angels from Lake View Cemetery, with lyrical accompaniment…

Hark! The herald angels sing
-John Wesley


Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”


Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.


Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.


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