R. W. “John” Dove and his wife, Ann Eliza Ege Dove are both buried in the historic Saint John’s Episcopal Churchyard in Richmond, Virginia.
JOHN DOVE, M.D.,
Born in Richmond, Sept. 2, 1792.
Died in Richmond, Nov. 16, 1876.
Grand Sect. of the Grand Lodge
of Masons in Virginia
ANN ELIZA DOVE
Doct. Jno. Dove,
born Aug. 20th, 1789,
died Oct. 12, 1865
Her house was ordered well
Her children taught the way of life,
Whom rising up in honour,
Called her blessed.
The poor with earnest benedictions,
On her step attend.
However, the Masonic Lodge erected a large gray granite obelisk in honor of R. W. “John,” Dove in the famed Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. The monument, however, is a cenotaph as his body lies buried at St. John’s Episcopal Churchyard. The cenotaph was erected to commemorate the life and death of John Dove. The word cenotaph originates from the Greek word kenotaphion. Kenos means empty and taphos translates to tomb–together they form “empty tomb.” The monument noted Dove’s long service to the organization:
R. W. JOHN DOVE, M. D.
BORN IN RICHMOND, VA.
SEPTEMBER 2, 1792.
DIED IN RICHMOND, VA.
NOVEMBER 16, 1876.
GRAND SECRETARY OF THE
GRAND LODGE OF VIRGINIA
BY SUCESSIVE RE-ELECTIONS
FROM 1835 TO 1876.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 16, 1876 edition, carried a news item on its front page about Dove’s death, “An Old Mason Dead. RICHAMOND, Va., Nov. 16.—Dr. John Dove died this morning, aged 84. He was a native of Richmond, and a mason 63 years, during which time he held high positions in that order; he was the oldest grand secretary in the world, holding the office over fifty years, and was grand recorder of the grand encampment of knight templars thirty years.”
Noah’s ark encircled by a laurel wreath with a dove flying overhead is depicted on the gravestone’s plinth. The laurel wreath is a symbol of victory of death while the dove represents the Holy Spirit, though it also might be a nod to Dove’s surname. The centerpiece, however, of the carving is Noah’s Ark. Dove was recognized for his service to the Masonic Lodge and therefore this symbol relates directly to the Masons and their teachings.
In the Bible in Genesis, Chapter 6, verse 13, God warns that He is going to put an end to human sin and lust, “And God said to Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”
In the following verses, He further commanded Noah to prepare, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.”…And this is the fashion thou shalt make it of, The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits…And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them live with thee, they shall be male and female.” As God commanded, Noah did build the Ark.
In Masonic symbolism as is the case with many symbols found in the cemetery, they can have more than one meaning. This is true of the Ark and the story of Noah.
The Ark was seen as a vessel that preserved and protected life during the great flood symbolizing the importance of preserving knowledge, wisdom, and virtue in a chaotic world. It can also represent a fresh start—renewal.
Many remember the Biblical story of Noah who built the Ark at the direction of God even midst ridicule of non-believers and skeptics. Therefore, the Ark also symbolizes Noah’s obedience and faith following God’s instructions to complete the task before the great rains began.
The Ark brought together all animals two-by-two and they had to co-exist peacefully, as such, it is a symbol of unity and harmony that reminds Masons to find harmony even when differences exist with members of society.
Lastly, the great Ark is viewed as a metaphor. Just as the great flood purified and transformed the Earth, Masonry is also viewed as a transformative journey undertaken by Masons to transform and cleanse their lives.