The Grim Reaper

The monument marking the SENG -EICHER family graves in the Cave Hill Cemetery at Louisville, Kentucky, is not only a sundial, but the dial itself also displays another motif—the image of the grim reaper.  As the old Doublemint Gum commercial blared to TV audiences, “Two, Two Mints in one.”  Only in this case—it is two symbols in one.

The sundial, in this case, marks the passage of time and in funerary art symbolizes the passage of time.

The other motif—the grim reaper—is characterized by a long beard and a scythe.  The scythe is his tool for cutting down and harvesting souls.  Some believe that the origin of the reaper is from the Greek myth of Charon, the ferryman.

Since ancient times, the imagery of the soul crossing a river was created to explain how the soul went from one realm to the other.  This vivid imagery has long been a part of the symbolism of death in iconography and word.

In Greek mythology, the River Styx wrapped its way around Hades (the Underworld) nine times.  To cross from this life to the next, the dead had to pay with a coin to be ferried from the realm of the living to the realm of the dead.  The toll was placed in the mouth of the deceased to pay Charon, the ferryman.  It was said that if the dead person did not have the coin, he was destined to wander the shores of the River Styx for a century.

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Metaphors

The sundial has been a way to measure time since the Egyptians developed them over 3,500 years ago. Historians even believe that the obelisks of ancient Egypt were used to measure time even earlier.

The sundial monument in the Cave Hill Cemetery at Louisville, Kentucky, not only measures time, but also marks the graves of the Rae family. The Rae Family sundial surrounded by a marble colonnade punctuates that point with the symbol of the winged hourglass—a symbol that denotes how quickly life passes by, how fleeting time is.

The sundial marks the passage of time and in funerary art symbolizes the passage of time. The sundial and the winged hourglass are both metaphors.

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Two Symbols

The BRUNNER family monument in the Cave Hill Cemetery at Louisville, Kentucky, contain two symbols, both cast in bronze and set in and on the granite marker.

The first is a set of gates. The gates represent a passageway from one realm to the next.  The gates are the portal for saved souls to make their passage from the Earthly realm to the Heavenly realm upon Christ’s return.

The second symbol adorning the monument are inverted torches. The flame is symbolic of the soul.  The inverted torch represents a life that has been extinguished.

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His Last Sculpture

Jeptha Barnard Bright, Jr., known as Barney, (July 8, 1927 – July 23, 1997), was a well-known Kentucky artist.  He was born in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and spent his career as an artist in Louisville as a foundry owner and sculptor.  Many of his commissioned statues can be found around Louisville, such as, the Louisville Clock, the River Horse Romano in front of the Ron Mazzoli Federal Building, the Floating Nudes in front of the Legal Arts Building, and in the city’s famed Cave Hill Cemetery marking the graves of luminaries like Saundra Curry Twist and Harry Leon Collins. His work can be found outside the Louisville area, as well. For instance, Bright was commissioned to create a statue of legendary basketball player Julius Erving for the City of Philadelphia.

Barney Bright created his own cemetery monument, too—reclining nudes of himself and his wife.  His wife, Gayle, is depicted as a young woman and he is depicted as an old man.  Reportedly, the Cave Hill Cemetery Association was not pleased with the erotic pose of his monument.  They, however, relented and allowed the monument to mark his grave.  It is yet another bronze that commemorates his life and a long, successful, and esteemed career.

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Magic

The Cave Hill Cemetery at Louisville, Kentucky, is a rolling, beautifully landscaped rural garden cemetery in the finest tradition. At every turn through the cemetery there are monuments that catch the eye and draw in the viewer to wonder about the person buried underneath. None any more than that of the monument dedicated to Harry Leon Collins (April 27, 1920 – May 3, 1985). The bronze statue marking his grave is a life-size likeness of Harry Leon Collins in a tuxedo standing in front of a trunk. Collin’s hand is extended in a gesture of welcoming.

Collins was well known in Louisville for his magic. So well-known for it, that he became known by the moniker, Mr. Magic. What had started out as a teenage fascination with magic became an avocation and then a vocation later in life. Collins’ interest in magic started when a local attorney in his hometown of Glasgow, Kentucky, showed him some magic and slight-of-hand tricks. From that point on, Collins was hooked and practiced his craft until he was quite good. Good enough, in fact, to get a part in the Bob Crosby USO show during his stint in the Pacific Theater while he was serving in the Marines in World War II.

After the war, Collins moved to the big cosmopolitan city of Louisville, Kentucky, where he got a job with the Frito-Lay Company as a salesperson. Though he was working full-time during the day selling Lays potato chips (my personal favorite chip!) and Fritos, he was still practicing his craft as a magician at night. He was so good he gained the nickname as Mr. Magic and gained a large following as one of the city’s favorite entertainers. The Frito-Lay management realized that they could have Collins combine his love for magic with his sales acumen and Collins became known as the Frito-Lay Magician. Now instead of using the phrase hocus pocus or voila or abracadabra, Collins would say, “Frito-Lay” when he pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat!

While the statue is a fitting tribute to his skill and passion as a magician, and his 45 years at the Frito-Lay Company, it only tells part of the story about who Harry Leon Collins was. He was also the son of Paul and Sadie Emerson Collins. Harry was only 15 when his father died and took over the awesome family responsibility of running the tobacco farm while finishing high school. He continued to take care of his brothers and sisters even after high school. He sent money home to take care of them after he entered the Marines. And he never forgot his obligation to them—sending each of them to college.

When Harry Leon Collins died suddenly in 1985, his wife, Maxine Warner Lewis Collins, commissioned famed sculptor, Barney Bright, to create the bronze statue of him that marks his grave.

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HIS PRETTIEST FLOWER

SAUNDRA CURRY TWIST

Oct. 9, 1941 – Jan. 7, 1981

MARTIN RAY TWIST

April 7, 1943 – Feb. 23, 2014

EDNA WILHELM BEASLEY

Jan. 25, 1923 – Nov. 28, 2003

IN LOVING MEMORY

TONJUA LYNN TWIST

Jan. 12, 1964 – May 20, 2000

WILLIAM C. JOE BEASLEY

June 3, 1917 – Apr. 24, 2005

The striking bronze of Saundra Curry Twist in the Cave Hill Cemetery at Louisville, Kentucky, was created by famed Kentucky sculptor, Barney Bright. The statue was fabricated by the Riehm-Gerlack Monument Company of Louisville.

The sculpture depicts Saundra wearing a full-length dress, arms partially stretched, standing in front of a white-marble colonnade that forms a half circle behind her. The sculpture sits atop a small white-marble base with the inscription: “GOD ALWAYS SEEMS TO PICK HIS PRETTIEST FLOWER.”

In front of the statue is a granite grave ledger with the following tribute:

“TO SANDY, A LOVE LETTER

Sandy was born prematurely at home in Louisville and was laid aside by the doctor as still born. Her mother refused to give up and carefully nurtured Sandy for several days and saved her.

She went on to become a beautiful, young lady with grace and poise and won several state-wide beauty contests and had a lengthy career as a successful fashion model. Her marriage at age 21 was one of bliss. No two people were ever more in love and devoted to each other. Hard work and daily living and the fulfillment of the close relationship made the years melt easily by.

Sandy’s untimely tragic death in an auto accident came at a time when Sandy was in her prime. She had found financial success through wise investments in real estate and oil and from humble beginnings had realized for the last few years of her young life all of this world’s bountiful wonders, including three healthy, beautiful daughters and a devoted husband.

Besides her striking physical beauty, Sandy was known by her family and friends as having an inner beauty that was open, honest and loving. She will be remembered as being selfless and untiring in an effort to keep those around her warm and safe and loved. She asked for nothing more than the opportunity to devote herself to her family, and through her self-imposed high standards and example she made those of us who knew her want to try a little harder each day.

Humanity has unknowingly lost an irreplaceable asset, a great lady, and so, we laid her to rest on a beautiful cold, clear, crisp, winter morning here in this peaceful spot where she used to come with us to feed the ducks and geese and swans on Sundays.

Shakespeare said it well, “The heart, like the mind, also has memories.” Even though we have countless fond memories to sustain us, she will be sorely missed.

With Eternal Love,

Martin, Tonjua, Tyra, and Tammy”

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Double Duty

If you walk up the sidewalk to the sales office at the Cave Hill Cemetery at Louisville, Kentucky, to your left on that path is a bronze statue of an exuberant little girl with her arms stretched as if she can reach the sky. The statue is titled “La Breeza – The Good Fairy”. The plaque on the base of the statue says that it is a reproduction of the original work of Oscar Mattison in the 1950s.

That same statue is used in the Lexington Cemetery at Lexington, Kentucky, atop the Wiggins Family Monument. The monument has a statue of “La Breeza – The Good Fairy” atop a square granite base. In this case the statue is used as part of their gravestone—not as freestanding art. Mattison’s sculpture is doing double duty.

 

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