A birthday wish

Today is my birthday and a friend of mine sent the following birthday wish:

May your epitaph be a long way away and as clever as these:


If cash thou art in want of any,

Dig four feet deep and find a Penny.”

Epitaph of John Penny, Wimborne, England.


“In loving memory of Ellen Shannon, aged 25,

Who was accidentally burned March 21, 1870,

By the explosion of a lamp filled with R.E. Danforth’s

Non-explosive burning fluid.”

Epitaph in cemetery at Girard, Pennsylvania


“Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake,

Stepped on the gas instead of the brake.”

Gravestone near Uniontown, Pennsylvania


“Here lies John Yeast,

Pardon me for not rising.”

Cemetery in Ruidoso, New Mexico


Here lies the body of our dead Anna

Gone to death by a banana

It wasn’t the fruit that dealt the blow

But the skin of the thing that laid her low!

On a tombstone in Enosburg Falls, Vermont


Here lies Ezekial Aikle

Age 102

The Good Die Young

East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia, Canada


Here lies the body of Emily White,

She signaled left, and then turned right.


John Brown (18th Century) Dentist

Stranger! Approach this spot with gravity!

John Brown is filling his last cavity.


“I Told You I Was Sick”

Cemetery in Key West, Florida

That last one reminded of me one just like it that I found and wrote about Buffalo, New York, and the Forest Lawn Cemetery:

Nothing is as final as death.  The quote, “Dead men tell no lies” reminds us of the silence of the grave.  However, the dead can speak one last time in wills, diaries, letters, and epitaphs.  Though many epitaphs are chosen for the person after he or she has passed away, some people do choose their own.  Mel Blanc’s epitaph signs off with his signature Porky Pig closing at the end of the Looney Tunes cartoon, “That’s All Folks!”  One wonders if Mr. Banc was also making a larger statement on the afterlife.

In the case of Barry Becher, the advertising guru who pioneered late-night infomercials hawking Ginsu Knives who just recently died, his family has announced that his epitaph will read, “But wait, there’s more!”  This is his famous catch phrase that has been mimicked by nearly every infomercial now.  Again, this epitaph could be read as a double entendre referring to the hereafter.

Amaryllis Jones, who is buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York, also had the last word.  Her epitaph reads, “I told you I was sick.”  No mistaking that message; she wanted to remind those who she left behind that she was not complaining, this was not the typical ailment, that she was RIGHT, she was sick!  Or, she had a good sense of humor.

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Uncomfortable Coexistence

Lawrence McMahon

1845 – 1941

Jennie McMahon

1847 – 1907

The pyramid-shaped tomb of Lawrence McMahon, a retired pharmacy chain store businessman, and his wife, Jennie, in the Calvary Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was designed by Herman Buemming.  McMahon commissioned the mausoleum after his wife died in 1907.  When the tomb was completed in 1909, McMahon had her body re-interred.

Herman Buemming (1872 – 1943) was a native of Ohio who moved with his parents to Milwaukee as a child.   He apprenticed as a draftsman and eventually had the top drafting job at Pabst Brewing Company. In 1893, he moved to New York City to study architecture at Columbia University.  When he returned to Milwaukee he formed the first of several partnerships.  His various architectural firms designed commercial buildings and homes all around the city, many of which are still standing and part of the Milwaukee landscape.

The McMahon mausoleum designed by Buemming is an example Egyptian Revival architecture that became popular in the United States.  After the French and British occupations of Egypt, there was a renewed interest in Egyptian architecture and symbolism.  The Egyptian symbol that is most commonly found in American cemeteries is the obelisk.  And the most famous obelisk in America is the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. But the pyramid is by far the epitome of Egyptian funerary architecture, the tomb of the pharaohs.  The oldest pyramid is the Pryamid of Djoser built over four thousand years ago from 2630 BC to 2612 BC.  The largest of the Egyptian pyramids is the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza built between 2589 and 2566 BC.

However, the Egyptian and Christian symbolism share an uncomfortable coexistence in this design.  The pyramid-shaped mausoleum is the penultimate ancient pharaonic tomb.  Yet, it also displays the Celtic cross.  The Celtic cross is recognized by the nimbus featured with the cross.  The Celtic cross is above the doorway and also as incised carvings on each side of the top of the door frame. Many Christians objected to Egyptian motifs and their non-Christian origins.  To soften the impact, designers often included Christian symbolism, as is the case here.

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Seated Angel

The William August Starke monument in the Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee features a seated angel.  The bronze sculpture is 69 inches high and 62 inches wide, resting on a light rose-colored unpolished granite base that is 44 inches high, 63 inches wide and 53 inches deep.  The angel has Calla lilies laying in her lap, recognized as a symbol of marriage.

The sculpture was created by Robert Ingersoll Aiken in 1921—signed in the lower left corner of the bronze plinth, “AIKEN FECIT”—Latin for “Aiken made it.”  Aiken was born in San Francisco (1878 – 1949).  He studied art and sculpture at the Mark Hopkins School of Design in San Francisco and in Paris before returning to the United States.  His most famous work includes the sculptures he created for the West pediment of the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C.

The seated angel was created as a memorial for William A. Starke, a Milwaukee businessman and entrepreneur.  Starke was an immigrant, who along with his four brothers, came to the States from Kolenfeld, Germany.  The five brothers founded the C. H. Starke Bridge and Dock Company, were involved in the Milwaukee Bridge Company, the Christopher Steamship Company, and the Sheriff Manufacturing Company.

William Starke was married to Louise Manegold Starke (1858 – 1939) who is buried next to him, as well as their 40-year old daughter, Meta Eleanor Starke Kieckhefer (1883 – 1923).

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The Steam Ship


BORN DEC. 3. 1866, Green Bay, Wisconsin

DIED AUG. 18. 1882, Escanaba, Michigan

The only son of William H. (1828—1901) and Marion A. (1831—1919) Wolf is buried in the Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, underneath a gray granite monument with a carved white marble replica of a steamship topping the memorial.

William was a German immigrant who developed a thriving shipping business on the Great Lakes.  The shipyard built schooners, steam boats, steam barges, and tugs.  The company also shopped goods throughout the Great Lakes.  William was grooming his son, Howard, to learn and eventually take over the business.  Howard working on one of the barges at a port in Michigan.  He was helping to unload one of the ships, the Business, when 16-year old boy fell through an open hatchway landing on his head in the fall.  He died a short time later that day.

The steam ship memorializes not only the Wolf family shipping business but the place of Howard’s death.

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The Knights of Pythias


The Knights of Pythias, a society based on the Greek story of friendship from 400 B. C. between Damon and Pythias, became the very first fraternal organization to receive a charter under an Act of the United States Congress.  The KP symbolism can be found in many cemeteries with their fraternal symbols that come in many forms.  Milwaukee must have had an active Knights of Pythias organization because there are many of the markers in the Forest Home Cemetery.

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C. T. Melms, Milwaukee’s First Beer Baron

Charles/Carl Theodore Frederick “C.T.” Melms

Born August 18, 1819 in Prussia

Died February 19, 1869 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

C.T. Melms was born in Prussia and immigrated to the United States in 1843, and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Melms married Maria Neukirch and went into the beer-making business with his new bride’s father, Franz, at the Menomonee Brewery.  They ran brewery together until 1853 when Melms became the sole owner.  By 1860, Melms was the largest beer producer in the Milwaukee and many consider him to be the city’s very first beer baron.

At age 49 Melms had a mishap.  He either sat on or had his hand pierced by a needle.  The wound became infected and on February 19, 1869, Melms died at his home of complications from tetanus.  He was survived by his widow, Maria, and their seven children: Franz, who was the oldest at 19 years old; Carl; Johanna; Elise; Richard; Gustav, and 4-year old Hertha, their youngest.  Within two years, Maria had sold the company her father and husband had built to the Philip Best Brewery Company which eventually became the Pabst Brewery.

Fast forward 194 years to Sunday, August 18, 2013, on the anniversary Melm’s birthday a ceremony was held to replace the tiny cast iron marker that had been placed on C.T. Melm’s grave.   A group of 25 families and organizations donated to have the new marker made and dozens gathered to unveil the new gravestone erected in the Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee to honor Melms.  The slant-faced monument is a polished granite gravestone with an etched image of Melms.



AUG. 18, 1819

FEB. 19, 1869


To the right of the new gravestone is a bronze plaque:


1828 – 1899


1855 – 1938


1998 – 1995

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Adolphus Busch, Beer Baron

Adolphus Busch

Born July 10, 1839, Kastel, Grand Duchy of Hesse (now Germany)

Died October 10, 1913, Lindschied, Germany

Certain foods go together like peanut butter and jelly, bread and butter, or salt and pepper. There are pairs of names like that, too, in the entertainment world like Laurel and Hardy, Rowan and Martin, and Penn and Teller—that don’t seem quite complete without the other.  In the world of beer the pair that came together to create “the King of Beers” was Anheuser and Busch.

Adolphus Busch, a German-born brewer, teamed up with his father-in-law, Eberhard Anheuser to found the Anheuser Busch Brewing Company.  Adolphus was the second child of twenty-two children born to Ulrich and Barbara (Pfeiffer) Busch.  Not expecting to inherit much of his father’s estate, Busch immigrated to the United States and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1857.  Adolphus worked several different jobs.  In 1861, he met and married Lilly Anheuser, Eberhard’s daughter.  When the Civil War broke out—he joined the Union Army and served for six months.  Adolphus went to work in his father-in-law’s brewery business.  In 1879, Adolphus became a partner in the business and the name was changed to Anheuser Busch.

Even though, Busch himself preferred wine to drink over beer, he was keen to produce the best beer possible—adopting the latest technologies, including pasteurization and refrigeration, to not only brew the best but get the best to market.  Busch built a large network of brew houses, ice houses, and bottling factories to build his local brand into a national brand.  Pasteurization allowed Busch to ship beer cross country and keep it fresh.  In 1882, Busch bought the brand name and trademark for Budweiser—the beer that is synonymous with Anheuser Busch.

All the while Busch worked at building his brewery, his family grew.  Adolphus and Lilly had thirteen children—eight sons and five daughters.

While on vacation in his home country of Germany, Adolphus died on October 10, 1913.  His body was returned to St. Louis in 1915 where he was buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery.  His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in that city with thousands of people lining the streets to catch a glimpse of his funeral cortege.  Busch’s wife, Lilly, had the family mausoleum torn down and the “inhabitants,” including her parents, reburied in the lot the new mausoleum was to be built.  The building resembling a church was designed by Thomas Barnett from the architectural firm of Barnett, Haynes, and Barnett, widely known for their classical designs.  The Gothic revival-style tomb is constructed with unpolished red granite quarried in Missouri.  The slate roof is topped with a copper spire.  In the cartouche in the arch above the doorway is carved the famous words of Julius Caesar, “”Veni, Vidi, Vici,” or “I came, I saw, I conquered”.

The mausoleum is befitting a beer baron, except for the grapevines decorating the building.  The grapevines are not only a nod to the German wine producing area Adolphus grew up in but also to his favorite drink—wine.

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