Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Tomb of the Unknowns

Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns-- commonly called The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier --is perched high atop a hill, affording a spectacular view of Washington DC. Since the1921 burial of an unidentified WWI veteran, three more veterans --from WWI, Korea and Vietnam--have been entombed. The sarcophagus, in the shape of a tomb, is constructed of white marble and sports columns in the corners. The east panel, which faces Washington, DC, features three Greek figures which represent Peace, Victory and Valor.

The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded around the clock every day of the year by Tomb Guard sentinels who are all volunteers from the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry. From the beginning of October to the end of March, the guard is changed each hour in an impressive ceremony. In the warmer weather --April through September --that changes occurs every half-hour.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The "Prime Minister of the Underworld."

Frank Costello, born Francesco Castiglia, was luckier than most of his mob cronies --he died a natural death at the age of 82. Having survived a 1957 murder attempt by Vincent Gigante-- a low-level criminal at the time—Costello later refused to identify Gigante as the shooter.

Nicknamed the “Prime Minister of the Underworld,” Costello was a Mafia leader who wanted to be accepted as a businessman and member of the establishment. Unlike the majority of his peers, Costello was said to eschew violence He cultivated refinement and sought out sophisticated friends among New York's established bigwigs and politicians. These men curried his favors to such an extent that the underworld grapevine claimed, "Nobody in New York City can be made a judge without Costello's consent."

During the Kefauver hearings on organized crime in the mid-fifties, Costello was front and center. At least his hands were, as the networks agreed not to broadcast his face. When the committee asked what he had done to speak of as an American citizen, Costello answered “Paid my tax!” Laughter erupted in the hearing room.

On February 18, 1973, Costello suffered a fatal heart attack. His wake began the next evening at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel. Dressed in a navy blue suit, dark blue tie and white shirt, Costello reposed in a walnut casket. During the two days of visitation, approximately 125 people came to the “Williamsburgh Room” to pay their respects to the former crime boss.  Costello’s funeral, which took place on Wednesday, the 21st of February, was a subdued affair, especially by gangland standards. A sole limousine transported Costello’s widow, Loretta, and his brother-in-law to St. Michael’s Cemetery in Queens. Newspaper accounts estimated the mourners --along with the requisite law enforcement --who gathered at the grave site for a brief ceremony to number about 50 people. Most of the prominent people Costello had associated with stayed away. However, storied restaurateur, Toots Shor -- whose establishment Costello had frequented -- was there. “He was very fine and decent, a good family man,” Shor told reporters.

Costello was entombed in a private family mausoleum. Built in 1949, at a cost of $18, 615 plus $4,888 for the land upon which it sits, the granite structure sports bronze windows and doors. On January 25, 1974, the bronze doors were blown off, reputedly by Costello’s old nemesis, Carmine Galante, in a symbolic act of revenge.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Angels Are All Around Us

Snapped this photo at Mount St. Mary's Cemetery in Queens, New York, on a recent visit. Note the fresh flower in the left hand of this beautifully detailed Angel.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist

Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist --who spent 33 years on the court--died on September 3, 2005 at the age of 80. His body lay in state in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court until his funeral on September 7, 2005; his casket resting on the same catafalque as did the casket of Abraham Lincoln. Rehnquist’s religious service took place at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington DC, where, in 1963, John F. Kennedy’s funeral Mass was held. The Catholic cathedral was chosen for its size, however the service was conducted by Minister Rev. George W. Evans Jr., pastor of Rehnquist’s parish, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. At the start of the religious service, Rehnquist’s casket was carried into church by some of his former law clerks, preceded by the eight associate justices. During a service more than two hours long, Rehnquist was eulogized by many, including President George W. Bush and close friend, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. At its conclusion, another group of law clerks carried the Judge Rehnquist’s casket out of the cathedral, this time with the justices --in order of seniority--following behind the casket of their former leader. A motorcade transported mourners to Arlington National Cemetery where Rehnquist was buried along with his wife, Natalie, who had died in 1991. Rehnquist’s burial spot affords a view of the Capitol. Note: This photo was taken before Rehnquist’s death. Thus, the monument does not bear a date of death for him.

John G. Roberts, Rehnquist’s onetime law clerk, succeeded him as Chief Justice.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Our Little Queen"

 This life-like statue of seven year old Helen Kennedy can be found in Brooklyn's Evergreen Cemetery. I searched, but could find no information about the child or her family. This monument is reminiscent of the many poignant memorials to children that can be found in cemeteries all over the world.