My Cemetery Travels
Christmas in the Cemetery
As a funeral director, I am well aware that there is never a good time to lose someone we love. But a loss seems particularly difficult to bear --or recall-- when the holiday season is upon us. All around us, people are absorbed by "the magic of Christmas," and there is an ever-present sense of gaiety. But not for those who mourn. Yet, many of those people find a sense of solace by visiting cemeteries and decorating family graves and mausoleums for the season. Seeing such poignant displays of love and remembrance, reinforce the continued connection that cemeteries offer.
Here's a smattering of some of the beautifully decorated --whether with a small ornamented tree or a simple holiday wreath --mausoleums and graves I've come across at Christmastime.
Green-Wood Cemetery in Fall
I've just visiting Green-Wood for the umpteenth time. Given that I've written a book about the cemetery, as well as a number of articles, it might seen like there's nothing new to see. But that's definitely not the case. Its 478 acres always offer a previously unseen historical and/or architectural gem along with a new perspective on oft-photographed favorites. What's more, seeing the grounds through a friend's first visit (as I did yesterday) is illuminating.
Green River Cemetery
This summer I finally made it to East Hampton to visit Green River Cemetery. It had been on my list of cemeteries to visit for a long time. And while I'd read a lot about it, and included it in an article I wrote for Newsday about tombstone tourism on Long Island, seeing it was something else. Many of the graves are marked by boulders, rather than tombstones. It may have been a traditional begun by Artist Jackson Pollock, and his wife Lee Krasner.
Actor Peter Boyle, too, chose a boulder to mark his final resting place.
As does Steven J. Ross, the former CEO of Time Warner.
The tragic deaths of brother and sister Courtney and Robert Steel stopped me in my tracks. Courtney was killed by a drunk driver less than two years after her brother died of cancer at the age of 19.
Hartsdale Pet Cemetery
On a cold day in early March of 2021, I visited Hartsdale Pet cemetery for the first time. I was looking for a different kind of cemetery profile, and this more than fit the bill. Despite the chill, I was fascinating by the often elaborate memorials, and sentimental epitaphs which honor beloved pets of many kinds. Cats, dogs, birds, rabbits....even a tiger, are commemorated here with unconditional love and devotion.
Not surprisingly, my article about Hartsdale --the cover of American Cemetery magazine's Nov. 2021 issue-- became one of my most popular profiles.
Green-Wood Cemetery in June
In mid June, I spent an enjoyable afternoon giving friends a long-awaited tour of Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. With so much to see, I did my best to hit the high points: DeWitt Clinton, Leonard Bernstein, Elias Howe and his dog Fannie, Henry Steinway, Civil War Soldiers' Monument, VanNess-Parsons....and many more.
We drove to some sites and walked to others (lots of Fitbit steps for me) stopping to get a closer look at random monuments, and to read a number of poignant inscriptions. Over the years, I've traversed Green-Wood's 478 acres countless times, researching my book about the cemetery, giving public and private tours, as well as serving in my capacity as a funeral director. Yet, each and every time, I make a new find or learn of one before my visit that I must see. The Badger monument was one such grave site.
In 2017, the girls' father Matthew died at the age of 51. He, too, is buried in Green-Wood.
A Titanic Undertaking
Graves of both survivors and casualties of the tragic 1912 sinking of the Titanic can be seen in a number of New York Cemeteries. Woodlawn in the Bronx and Green-Wood in Brooklyn contain the most.
The end result of my research was the April cover story for American Cemetery magazine.
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