In Boston, MA is Mt. Auburn Cemetery, the first “planned” cemetery in the United States. It is, of course, very old…but also very beautiful. It is a spectacular place to drive or walk through, though to walk through it would take a long, long time! It’s huge. For a long time, it was the most popular tourist attraction in the Boston area. The place is so beautiful that when New York City was trying to work out the plans for a great park, they patterned it after Mt. Auburn – and named it Central Park. They said something to the effect of let’s duplicate Mt. Auburn, but without the gravestones! So now you know a bit more about Mt. Auburn Cemetery and Central Park that you probably didn’t know.
I could wander a place like Mt. Auburn for hours and never get tired of it. It’s so gorgeous and the variations in the grave markers, tombstones, vaults, etc., are remarkable. But what I love most is reading the epitaphs and other information that is on the markers. It always makes me wonder about the person: what color was their hair, eyes? What did they love to do just for fun? Were they loved or did they live and die alone? What led to their death (especially if they died young)? Did they like to laugh? What kinds of mischief did they get into in their rabble-rousing days? Were they pretty/handsome or homely? What did they do for a living? What was their favorite food? The questions are endless. Sometimes the markers give a hint about their personality…like today’s photo shows.
There is a small country cemetery not far from where we live, called Olive Hill Cemetery near Geyserville, CA. It is on one of the two-lane roads (Canyon Road) that connects the Alexander Valley to Dry Creek Valley and nestles on the hills on the south side of the road as you reach the crest of the hill. We stopped there recently once on our day off to visit the grave of a friend and to take pictures. As I wandered around a bit, I came across this grave marker (I can’t say tombstone because it’s wooden). I was intrigued by it first of all because it was the only wooden one I recall in the vicinity, but secondly because of what it said. It made me wonder about “Old Fooler”. Was he a practical joker – is that how his marker came to be so labeled? Or, was he a rotten cheat and the “Old Fooler” wasn’t a term of endearment, but of reproach, put on the marker by someone he’d taken advantage of?
I did a Google search for Mr. Magers and found that he was a veteran of the United States Army, and served in Vietnam. He died just short of his 36th birthday, but I could find nothing about the cause of his death. Did he die as the result of a war wound, or exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam? Or, maybe a motorcycle or car accident. Perhaps he suffered from PTSD and took his own life. It would be interesting to know, don’t you think? It seems that whoever created the memorial had a sense of humor about the man, instead of saying “Born” and “Died”, it’s “Here” and “Gone.” Gone too soon, too, from the looks of it. I tend to think that he might have been a fun man to know.
Rest in peace, Leo Wade Magers, you Old Fooler!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1912 a search party discovered the remains of British explorer Captain Robert Scott and his ill-fated South Pole expedition. It’s a tragic story, one worth reading – and a testimony and warning regarding hubris and poor planning!
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History houses the world’s largest collection of shells, with over 15 million specimens.