An Unusual Section In Evergreen Cemetery

I came across something strange while touring cemeteries in Washington last month. At Evergreen Cemetery, in Everett, Washington, off in it’s own little corner of the property, is a section that piqued my interest. What I saw while driving through was white signs with ranges of numbers on them, and from far away, what looked like piles and piles of flowers.

Piles of flowers in a row

This was definitely an odd thing to see in such a vast and beautiful cemetery. At first I wondered if this was some type of mass grave, or remembrance of the unknown buried in the cemetery.

When I got closer, it became apparent that the flowers, gifts and trinkets were scattered haphazardly and not lovingly placed in the spot they now lay. I began to wonder if maybe these were items that had blown away from their intended resting spot, and were placed here so that the family could retrieve them and place them back where they belonged.

This seemed like the most logical explanation. But since I was unsure, I decided to contact the cemetery to find out.

Close-up of 57 and 58, pile of flowersI made a quick call to the cemetery and spoke to a very nice woman. I was able to learn that indeed, this was not a mass grave or remembrance of some unknown group of poor departed souls. It was closer to my theory of a sort of cemetery “lost and found”; however, the artificial flowers and such that littered this area were not items that had blown away and their original intentions unknown.

According to the woman, these items were deliberately moved by the people who mow the cemetery lawn, and placed in this area so that the family can reclaim the items and return them to their intended place. The white signs over each pile of items indicate the area of the cemetery the items were found in.

From our conversation, it was apparent that this is a well-intentioned extra effort by the cemetery to preserve these items instead of simply throwing them away.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Even though I know that all items placed on a grave are eventually removed by caretakers of the cemetery, it’s not something I ever wanted to see. When I leave an item on a grave, and then come back sometime later to find the item gone, I like to think that I gave it to the person who passed away, not that it was swooped up by an employee of the cemetery and dumped in the trash.

Windmill, Watering can and flowersI have never seen anything like this before, and I don’t know how I would feel having to dig through a pile like this to find items left for my loved ones.

Perhaps, while the original intentions of the cemetery were positive, this idea was badly executed?

What do you think?

Posted in graving | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Remember Me As You Pass By

Picture of the Lewis family grave plot in Palmer Pioneer Cemetery Alaska.

Remember me as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so you will be,
Prepare yourself to follow me.

Posted in graving | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Paying Respects: Why Coins Are Left On Headstones

A penny left on a headstone.

One of the things I’ve noticed while wandering cemeteries is how many headstones have coins left on them. I wasn’t quite sure what they meant, so I decided to look it up.

I was surprised to find out that there are quite a few superstitions that compel people to leave money on a loved ones grave…

The Ferryman

Charon the Ferryman is a reason for coins on gravestones.

By far the most popular reason I have found for leaving pennies or other coins on headstones is based in Greek Mythology.

According to legend, Charon, the ferryman of Hades, requires payment of one coin to ferry your loved ones soul across the River Styx that separates the living from the dead. Historically, the coins were placed in the mouths of the deceased, or according to some sources, over their eyes.

People who can’t pay the fee are said to be doomed to wander the shores of the river for 100 years. This sounds like reason enough to throw down a penny, just in case.

The Black Donnellys

Another popular reason for leaving coins on graves relates to the notorious Donnelly family, known as the Black Donnellys. A longstanding feud with another family resulted in the brutal massacre of five Donnelly family members. Some believe that the Donnolly’s will grant a wish for anyone that leaves a penny on the Donnelly family grave.

This superstition has expanded, and many now believe that a dead loved one will grant a wish if they leave a penny on their headstone, or that the loved one will watch over them and bring them good luck.

Military Messages

Headstone of Van Noland, Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Everett, WA.

According to some, leaving coins on a headstone has very specific meaning for military burials. Leaving a penny indicates that you knew the deceased, a nickel meant you trained in boot camp together, a dime signified serving in the same company, a quarter told the family that you were with them when they died.

Apparently this tradition dates back to Roman times, but in the United States started during the Vietnam War as a way to leave messages to the family of the deceased without contacting them directly. Additionally, sometimes coins are left as a “down payment” for the deceased, a promise to buy their comrade a drink in the afterlife.

Remembrance

No matter what the original intention of the coin-leaver may be, it seems clear that a coin left on a headstone is a symbol of remembrance and respect. A way of telling all who pass by that the person buried there was loved and visited often.

Maybe next time I wander through a cemetery, I will bring a pocketful of pennies.

Posted in graving | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

Featured Memorial – Joyce Elaine Ruble

This featured memorial is about Joyce Elaine Ruble. Her grave caught my eye because as soon as I walked up to it I noticed that it had both a headstone and a foot stone. I thought it was interesting that the foot stone had been dedicated by a school. This led me to want to learn more about her.

Joyce Elaine Ruble

Joyce is buried in Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Everett, Washington. She died in 1963 at the age of 13.

Her head stone Says:

The headstone of Joyce Elaine Ruble.Joyce Elaine Ruble ~ Laurin ~ 1950-1963

Her foot stone says:

Foot stone for Joyce Elaine Ruble.In loving memory of ~ Joyce E Ruble ~ 1950 – 1963
South Powellhurst School ~ Portland, Oregon

I found the foot stone very interesting. Why would South Powellhurst School add a foot stone for Joyce? Did she die at the school? Was she a very influential student there?

I attempted to find more information on the school, but was only able to find a couple of references to “South Powellhurst Middle School” in Oregon, none of which were very helpful in solving this mystery. I also wondered if the foot stone was recently placed on her grave. The lack of wear, the material used, and the design lead me to think that it may be a more recent addition than her headstone.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find very much information about Joyce. I wasn’t able to find out how she died, or locate any pictures of her. After countless searches I believe I was able to piece together some of her family tree. I was able to find out that the inscription “Laurin” on her headstone is the last name of her mother and step father, Shirley and Herbert Laurin, and that she may have had as many as five brothers and one sister. She is buried next to Ernest and Margaret (King) Laurin, who are her step-grandparents.

What I do know is that Joyce was very loved. Her headstone is very cute, with an image of a little girl herding sheep (Little Bo Peep?) and a built in vase so that her loved ones always have a place to leave flowers. Additionally, someone at the South Powellhurst School in Portland, Oregon cared for her enough to add the beautiful foot stone with the inscription “In Loving Memory”.

I hope to some day find out more about Joyce’s story, as I have so many questions. I would also like to be able to add a picture of her to her Find a Grave memorial.

Posted in graving | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Graving with Jenn

A picture of a cemetary for graving with mountains in the background.I recently discovered a new hobby, graving. It started when I began wandering cemeteries, taking pictures of interesting headstones, and entering them into Find a Grave.

After a while I became obsessed with recording every burial and I began taking pictures of every headstone I could.

I’ve come across a lot of amazing things and adventures while graving so I decided to start this blog so I could share it with you.

Posted in graving | Tagged , , | 2 Comments