Saturday, April 30, 2011

Love Unstoppable

One of the most poignant love stories to be found in Woodlawn Cemetery is that of Lawrence and Elvira Wegielski. The New York Times apparently thought so too, judging by their 2003 feature NEW YORK LORE; Love, Unstoppable, which chronicles a devotion that transcends death.

The Clopton Monument

Came across this monument on a recent walk through Flushing Cemetery in Queens County, NY. What struck me immediately was not only its beauty, but its similarity --minus the wings--to the Angel of Grief.  I don't have any information about this statue apart from the family name, but am searching and will post an update if I find out any details. The flower and pink bracelet-like ornamentation makes me think that someone has recently visited.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Angel of Grief

In the 1890s, noted American sculptor, William Wetmore Story, created the Angel of Grief monument for the future grave site of he and his wife in Rome's Protestant Cemetery. A number of replicas of the Angel of Grief -- also referred to as the Weeping Angel --can be seen around the country in various cemeteries. The above of one such replica. This early 20th Century version commemorates the Cassard family and can be seen in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. A black & white photo appears on page 73 of my Green-Wood book.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eva "Evita" Peron: "Don't Cry For Me Argentina"

When Eva (nee Duarte) Peron, affectionately known as “Evita” to her adoring public, died at the age of 33 on July 26, 1952, her funeral was as grand as the life (albeit short) she had lived. Her body was medically embalmed --a rare and costly practice--and placed in a specially constructed Bronze casket with a glass cover for public viewing. And what a viewing it was! Eva’s body remained on display for 13 days during which time 3 million Argentines, after waiting in line for hours, filed past her casket to pay their final respects. In the meantime, construction was to begin on the mausoleum which would house her remains. However, it would take more than 20 years before that would happen. Ousted by a coup, President Juan Peron went into hiding as did Eva’s body, because of the strong anti-Peron sentiment in the country. On October 22, 1976, Eva Peron’s body was at last entombed in the family mausoleum in La Recoleta Cemetery. A plaque at the site is inscribed in Spanish with the words: Don’t Cry For Me. Located in Buenos Aires, La Recoleta is the final resting place of many of Argentina’s elite.
  A friend who visited the cemetery graciously provided this photo. I’ve yet to get there, though I did write both a college paper and an article entitled The Death and Enduring Legacy of Eva Peron which appeared in the January 2001 edition of American Funeral Director Magazine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Henry Steinway

After emigrating from Germany along with his wife and four sons, Henry Steinway, born Steinweg, worked for piano makers in New York before starting his own company -–Steinway & Sons-- in 1853. Before long,  Steinway’s concert pianos became synonymous with quality and craftsmanship. A year before his 1871 death, Steinway purchased land in Astoria, Queens, relocating his business. The company remains in Queens to this day and a main thoroughfare –Steinway Street—is name in his honor. The Steinway family’s grand mausoleum in Green-Wood Cemetery has room for 128 entombments.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Brooklyn Mayor Charles A. Schieren

The 'Angel of Death' monument, which marks the graves of Charles A. Schieren (Brooklyn’s next to last mayor) and his wife, Mary Louise, is perhaps the eeriest site in Green-Wood’s. It was crafted by Solon Borglum, who also sculpted Mount Rushmore. An archival shot of this monument appears on Page 37 of my Green-Wood Cemetery book.

The Schieren's died of pneumonia within 24 hours of one another. Inscribed on the plaque in front of the monument are the words: In their lives they were lovely and in their death they were not divided.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Celia Cruz--The Queen of Salsa

On July 22, 2003 -- a day that both NY’s Governor and NYC’s Mayor declared “Celia Cruz” day – the Queen of Salsa joined other music greats-- Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan--in eternal slumber in Woodlawn Cemetery. Celia Cruz’s mausoleum in the venerable Bronx cemetery took a year to complete. It is open and airy with two-foot windows on either side, as it was Cruz’s wish that even in death she would be accessible to her multitude of fans. Visible on a shelf inside the structure are photos and mementoes of the joyous life she lived.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hattie McDaniel -GWTW's Beloved "Mammy"

Hattie McDaniel not only achieved immortality by playing Mammy in Gone With The Wind, she also won an Academy Award for her role, becoming the first African American actor to do so. When she died in 1952, she was denied her wish to be buried in California’s Hollywood Memorial Park because of the cemetery’s “whites only” policy. Instead she was buried in LA’s Rosedale Cemetery. After Tyler Cassity took over Hollywood Memorial Park in 1998—renaming it Hollywood Forever—he offered to have McDaniel’s remains disinterred from Rosedale and reburied. McDaniel’s family did not want her remains disturbed, so instead Cassity had a four foot pink and gray granite cenotaph erected in her honor. It was unveiled on October 26, 1999-- the 47th anniversary of McDaniel’s death—in a dedication cemetery to which the public was invited.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Charles "Lucky" Luciano

The mausoleum of the Genovese family crime boss Charles "Lucky" Luciano bears his true family name of Lucania. There is a nearby mausoleum with the name of Luciano, which some people, erroneously, is his actual resting place.

Samuel J. LeFrak --Master Builder

Real estate developer Samuel J. LeFrak headed the company that bore his name. For four decades, the company created more than 100,000 homes and apartments throughout Brooklyn and Queens, including Corona’s LeFrak City. Built between 1960 and1969, LeFrak City  -- situated on 40 acres that once belonged to Pres. Martin Van Buren and subsequently to the Astor family--is seen as LeFrak’s signature project. LeFrak died in April of 2003 and is buried in Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, a stone’s throw away from his crowning achievement.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Harry Houdini aka Ehrich Weiss

Harry Houdini (born Ehrich Weiss) died on Halloween in 1926 at the age of 52. His funeral took place several days later at Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, NY. It was Houdini’s wish that he be buried at the right side of his mother and that her letters to him be placed in his casket. On the first anniversary of his death, his widow, Beth Rahner, held a séance as per a pact the couple had made that Houdini would try to make contact from the afterlife. After ten years with no contact, Rahner held her last séance and was said to quip, “Ten years is long enough to wait for any man.”  Despite a footstone that bears her name at the Weiss family plot in Machpelah, Rahner is buried in Gate of Heaven cemetery in Hawthorne, New York. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gone With The Wind Author Margaret Mitchell Marsh

  Margaret Mitchell Marsh, the author of Gone With The Wind, is buried in Atlanta's historic Oakland Cemetery. In preparation for a profile I was doing, I visited the cemetery in 2004. Visiting the grave of Margaret Mitchell, the author of my favorite book, was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Green-Wood's "Bride"

Way back when, the first significant monument I was introduced to at Green-Wood was the "bride." So significant was this that I ...