Forbidden Love

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Nelson W. Blocher

February 1, 1847

January 24, 1884

Inside the elaborate Victorian granite monument in the Forest Lawn Cemetery at Buffalo, New York, dedicated to Nelson Blocher, the son of John and Elizabeth Blocher, are four sculptures that depict the final moment of a Nelson Blocher’s life. In the center of the marble tableau is Nelson in repose depicted at the moment of his death with a Bible resting on his chest. Sculptures of his Mother and Father are standing at either side of his death bed. Lastly, there is a voluptuous winged angel figure clad only in a garland of flowers hovering above him holding a floral crown, presumably to be placed on Nelson’s head as he ascends to Heaven.

John and Elizabeth Blocher--the inset photograph in the center is their son, Nelson.

John and Elizabeth Blocher–the inset photograph in the center is their son, Nelson.

All of the figures depicted in the tomb were a part of Nelson Blocher’s tragic and forbidden love story. According to A Field Guide to Forest Lawn Cemetery, Nelson Blocher, the well-to-do only son of Buffalo merchant, John Blocher, fell deeply in love with his family’s Irish maid, Margaret Katherine “Katie” Sullivan. Nelson’s parents believed it was unseemly for their son to marry below his station and quickly arranged for a business trip for their son that took him out of the country to Italy and away from his not-to-be paramour. While Nelson was away the maid left the household leaving only her Bible behind. In the meantime, Nelson became ill and returned home to convalesce but died soon after he arrived. Some say it wasn’t an illness that felled Nelson, but a broken heart.

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His parents were bereft and felt responsible for denying their son the love he yearned for and sending him to the place where he became ill. To commemorate their son’s life, John and Elizabeth decided to construct a monument dedicated him. The immense granite structure that encases the sculptures was designed by Nelson’s father, John Blocher. The McDonnell Monument Company of Quincy, Massachusetts was contracted to cut the stone of the Victorian confection and construct it at Forest Lawn Cemetery. The bell-shaped top to the monument weighs a staggering 26 tons, “The roof rests on giant granite pilasters separated by glass doors.” The five curved glass panels between the pilasters are French glass.

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The figures inside the tomb are carved from 150 tons of white Italian Carrara marble created by artist Frank Torrey. According to legend, the woman who stood as the model for the curvaceous angel figure hovering above Nelson, was none other than the Katherine, the maid, he had fallen in love with. There are three crypts below the marble figures, one for Nelson, John, and Elizabeth Bolcher. There is no word about what became of Katie.

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There are three sofa-like benches that surround the tomb each with the name of one the Blochers and their birth and death dates.

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