Everybody Must Get Stoned

My apologies to Bob Dylan for co-opting his lyrics to suit my personal preference. I believe that everyone should have a cemetery marker to show that we WERE.

Nearly forty years ago, I cataloged the Pennsylvania cemetery where my father is buried. That obviously included only those graves that had headstones, bronze markers, or at least the little temporary markers placed by funeral homes. That was back in the Dark Ages, so my findings were typewritten, with no photos. Fast forward to more recent times, and the availability of digital cameras, allowing it to be cost-effective and easy to include photos. I created my own websites for “my” cemeteries, with a database and photos.

Then I discovered Find A Grave.

Find A Grave is a FREE website that was doing the same thing I had been doing: keeping track of various cemeteries. It made sense, then, to move my work to the site, which contained over a million entries. The site has been around since 1995, and has now grown to 238 million entries. It makes me feel good to know that I’m not the only oddball that visits strangers in cemeteries. In fact, I happened to meet a good friend, Cindy Dustin, because of our interest in cemeteries. On her own path, Cindy is also a valued volunteer at the Fenton. Cindy’s husband and my wife are patient with us and often accompany us in our separate travels. Find A Grave is especially helpful to those who can’t get out, or who want to visit a grave that’s a distance away. The site has expanded, allowing photos of loved ones, in addition to headstone photos. It’s a superb resource, and I highly recommend it. I mentioned it’s free, right?

My mother was cremated, and my stepfather didn’t tell me specifically what happened to her ashes. Although she wasn’t there, I had a headstone placed in her honor, next to her parents. I later learned that a headstone that marks an empty grave is called a centotaph. She’s been gone nearly fifty years, but my wife and I still plant flowers on her empty grave. I still visit the place, and think of her even more while I’m there. She WAS.
What can one gain by visiting a cemetery in person?

–Peace, for one thing. Cemeteries are quiet places, full of flora and fauna.

–Knowledge, for another. Often, headstones include more about the person than just the “dash” information (date of birth – date of death). They might include the person’s military service, civilian service, middle name, maiden name, etc. Family members are often buried together, so you may gain insight for your genealogy.

–Exercise, if the graves are some distance from one another. Some people go to the cemetery specifically FOR exercise. You’ll see joggers and walkers, especially at the spacious Lake View Cemetery. Lake View is a prime example of a memorial PARK, with the added advantage of a very helpful office staff to help you locate a grave.

Every year, The Fenton offers Saints & Sinners Cemetery Tours at Lake View in October. The fast-selling tours allow you to get exercise and see the headstones, while a guide provides additional information. Some graves include actors that bring the person to life. Not up to that much walking? There are horse-drawn carriage tours, too, but they sell out even faster, so watch for announcements. You can make your own tour, by just walking the roads and looking for names of prominent Jamestowners. Some might seem obvious, by the size of the monument, but many well-known people have ordinary headstones.
It was during the tours for 2023 that we discovered there was no marker for Arthur Wellington Anderson. Mr. Anderson was a city historian, and wrote a book called Conquest of Chautauqua (1932). We can correct that omission, if you’re willing to make a donation for a headstone. The approximate cost will be $1,000 and all donations are welcome. Send a check to the Fenton, with a notation that it’s for Mr. Anderson’s grave marker.

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment