Saturday, November 18, 2017

Some Unusual Graves

Following on from the earlier post about statues of naked women on graves, here are some other unusal last resting places . . .

The graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband in Roermond, Holland. The husband, J.W.C van Gorcum, colonel of the Dutch Cavalry and militia commissioner in Limburg, is buried in the Protestant part of the cemetery. He died in 1880 after 38 years of marriage. His wife, lady J.C.P.H van Aefferden, died in 1888 and was buried in the Catholic part of the cemetery on the other side of the separating wall. Their tombstones clasp hands.   Awwww.

Located at the Recoleta Cemetery in Argentina, the grave of the husband has the figure of a man looking at the horizon whilst sitting on a sofa. The grave of the wife is also marked by a sculpture but hers is looking in the opposite direction. They have their backs to each other. The backstory is that the husband died first and asked for the grave statue. She died some years later and asked for hers to have her back to him, as representing their marriage: they spent their last 30 years without speaking a word. 

Little is known about Fernand Arbelot (1880-1942) and even less is known of his wife, not her name or where she is buried. Fernand, a musician and actor, remains known because of his one desire in death: to forever gaze on the face of his wife. Arbelot died in Paris, France, during the German Nazi occupation and it is there that he is buried, gazing at his wife’s face for eternity (or as long as the sculpture lasts). There is a story that he murdered his wife and committed suicide, but this is not confirmed. The disembodied head sure looks creepy, though. Fernand Fuckedintheheadelot.

Mary Reed died in New York in 1893. Hubby Jonathan, 68 at the time, loved her greatly and constructed a mausoleum to house her remains. He visited her tomb daily and began placing her favourite things in there: paintings, photos, red curtains, silverware, yarn, old gloves, their pet parrot. . .  even a rocking chair, which he began to use. And a stove. It was but a small step to move in and live there, which he did. For ten years. In an interview with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1895, he stated: "My wife was a remarkable woman and our lives were blended into one. When she died, I had no ambition but to cherish her memory. My only pleasure is to sit here with all that is left of her." The fact of a man residing in his wife’s tomb became a tourist attraction, even a group of Tibetan monks visited, assuming he had some insight on life after death. He died in 1905 and his remains were placed next to his wife. There is no word on what happened to the parrot. 

John Milburn Davis of Hiawatha, Kansas, was sad when Sarah, his wife of over 50 years, passed away in 1930. After a few years he decided that private mourning was not enough, he would go public and, what is more, he had the money to do so. In 1932 construction began of an elaborate grave monument, which took 8 years to complete. Ten life-size Italian marble statues depict John and Sarah as they age. The 11th statue is of John alone, missing his left hand, lost it in a farming accident, sitting next to "The Vacant Chair" where Sarah would have sat. There are also numerous marble urns and a heavy canopy. Davis once he saw a visitor sitting in "The Vacant Chair". Angered by this, he had a wall erected around the gravesite The last statue and chair are made of granite, Davis’s life savings having been exhausted on the project. Davis died in 1947 aged 92, but few of the townspeople attended the funeral. They disliked Davis for having spent a fortune, estimated between $100,000 and several times that amount, on a memorial to a dead woman when it had hoped he might instead construct a hospital for the town. Remember too that this was during the years of the Great Depression. Still, for many years the good citizens of Hiawatha have had the benefit of tourist dollars as a result of the graves. 

Jack Crowell (1924 – 1996) owned the National Clothespin Company, the last wooden clothespin manufacturer in the United States. Today it produces plastic clothespins and barrettes, what the Seppos call hairclips. Jack Crow, as he was known, marked his grave (located in Middlesex, Washington County, Vermont, USA) with a wooden clothes peg, but they didn’t grant him his complete last wish: that the clothes peg be made of wood with a metal spring in the middle so that children could use it as a seesaw.

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