Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I need to blog more

Since I've not really stayed strong in the habit of blogging, I'm going to resolve to do more of it--for this one and my work one.

So here's the latest in cemetery news ...

At least he had a reason: Man takes sledge hammer to grave marker when woman refuses to date him (yeah, that's gonna help)

Daily Telegraph helps launch campaign for Britain's First National War Cemetery

New York Marble Cemetery: The Cemetery Down The Alley

Friday, October 30, 2009

As October ends ...

It's officially October now at the end of the month. Rainy, moist, cold then warm and humid. The smell of fallen leaves and rain water.

When I think of October at other times of the year, what comes to mind are vibrant colors, cool crisp air, pumpkins and leaves. When I think of Halloween, first I think of all the cool stuff ... then of rainy, yucko nights trick-or-treating. Well, October is here in her yuckiest. Ah, well. It's all good no matter what. It's fall!

But as the ground gets wetter, the winds get stronger and the days get shorter, it means there is less time to spend in the cemeteries. On the bright side, there's more time to curl up with those cemetery books you've been wanting to read. You know the ones, they've been piling up on your shelves while you've been out among the graves snapping pictures.

If you don't have a stack of books ready, though, here's a list for you to check out:

- Cemetery Walk (of course!) by Minda Powers-Douglas
- Stories in Stone by Doug Keister
- Translating Tombstones by Minda (though this is best used out in the field as a reference)
- Cemetery Stories by Katherine Ramsland
- Your Guide to Cemetery Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack
- Cemeteries and Gravemarkers by Richard Meyer (great essays/papers throughout!)
- Stones and Bones of New England by Lisa Rogak (I'm going to finally read this one myself ... been sitting on my shelf, waiting)
- New Orleans Cemeteries by Robert Florence (love it!)

What about you? What cemetery books do you like best or have on your shelf to read?

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

One event added, another cancelled

Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it to Michigan for the Victorian Halloween event.

BUT, I will be giving a gravestone rubbing demonstration/talk during the Apple Festival this weekend in LeClaire, Iowa! Be there at 1 p.m. to learn about this cool artwork that allows you to read unreadable gravestones and "capture" them to take with you.

All the best,


Friday, September 18, 2009

The latest

I'm excited about the approach of Halloween. I'm looking into traveling up to Michigan to take part in "A Victorian Haunting Experience" with my friend Scary Amy Williamson. That takes place Oct. 30-31. I really hope to make it. If I do, I'll be presenting a workshop on gravestone rubbing on Oct. 31. (For more info: http://www.amywilliamson.net/)

I'm planning to be at the Illinois State Genealogical Society annual conference Oct. 24 in Elgin, Illinois. I'll have a booth. Should be fun! http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ilsgs/

Other things I'm doing? Making haunted dollhouse furniture! How cool is that? Very. Check some out here: http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=7268393

I gave cemetery symbolism tours last Saturday at Oakdale Memorial Gardens' Forget-Me-Not Victorian Day in Davenport, Iowa. It was a great time. Thanks to all who participated!

On top of all that, I just finished by latest book "Chippiannock Cemetery" a few weeks ago. It's all about Chippiannock Cemetery, a garden cemetery in Rock Island, Illinois. It was established in 1856, and it's gorgeous. It's still active and will be for hundreds of years to come. It will be published by Arcadia in 2010.

For other things I've been doing or will be doing, check out my website: www.TheCemeteryClub.com

Love and spooky things,


Friday, July 10, 2009

1,500-year-old burial ground needs your help

Make your voice known on this!

Oxford, Alabama Destroying A 1500-Year-Old Indian Mound To Build A Sam's Club

Read this blog to learn about how this burial mound is being destroyed and how you can help stop it.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Slacker blogger, busy writer/photographer

Hello, everyone! It's been ages, I know. So here's a quick update.

I'm speaking at the Green County Genealogical Society conference tomorrow in Monroe, Wis., on cemetery art and giving a workshop on gravestone rubbings. I can't wait! Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE talking cemeteries!

I'll also be teaching these classes in the fall:

- Digging into Local History through Our Cemeteries -

Learn about Quad Cities history in this fascinating and unique class. The class will focus on three cemeteries: Chippiannock in Rock Island, Riverside in Moline and Oakdale Memorial Gardens in Davenport. This is the perfect class for those interested in history, genealogy and, of course, cemeteries. Ms. Powers-Douglas is the author of the recently published books “Cemetery Walk” and “Translating Tombstones” and is the editor of “Epitaphs Magazine.” If you have questions for the instructor ahead of time, e-mail them to minda.epitaphsmag@gmail.com.

Saturday, Sept. 5, 2-4 p.m.
Rock Island, Ill.
Cost and location TBA

- Class name: D.I.Y. Book Publishing -

Do you have a book that you want to get published but don’t know the first thing about it? Do you want to write a book but you just want to print a small amount of books for family and friends? In this class you will learn from a self-published author, what steps are involved in self-publishing, the positives and negatives of using print-on-demand, and how to publish with little to no money. You may e-mail advance questions to instructor Minda Powers-Douglas (author of “Cemetery Walk,” “Translating Tombstones” and editor of “Epitaphs Magazine”) via minda.epitaphsmag@gmail.com.

This is a great class for genealogists and taphophiles who want to do more with their research.

Saturday, Nov. 7, 10 a.m. to noon
Rock Island, Ill.
Cost and location TBA

Aside from working away on my book "Chippiannock Cemetery," which will be out later this year or early next year, I'll be working on the new issue of Epitaphs Magazine soon. So if you don't hear from me for another spell, that's why!

Now get off your computer and get into those cemeteries!


Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Tribute to Mel Blanc

I've been asked many times what my favorite epitaph or gravestone is. And while I do really like "I told you I was sick," I cannot say that it's my favorite. My favorite epitaphs is carved on a grave I have never seen in person. Mel Blanc's in Hollywood forever. I know no more fitting an epitaph than his:

"That's All Folks"
Mel Blanc
Man of 1000 Voices
Beloved Husband and Father

Today's tribute to Mel Blanc is not just because of his grave marker. It's because of the man. After my daughter and I came home this morning from picking up doughnuts, we found that my husband had put in a documentary about Mr. Blanc. I believe it's from the Looney Tunes Golden Collection. I didn't realize that he did so many Hanna Barbera voices as well. He was the voice of Captain Caveman! My favorite! I love how Captain Caveman would just randomly pull things out of all the hair covering his body. Anything from a club to a piano or something.

Garry Owen (announcer and voice of Space Ghost) called him "the top voice in the history of animation." I completely agree.

Mr. Blanc, you are dearly missed.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

RIP Louie Belson

As you may know, jazz musician (drummer and composer) Mr. Louie Bellson Jr. passed away on Feb. 14, 2009.

While he was born in Rock Falls, Illinois, Mr. Bellson grew up in my hometown, Moline, Ill. Mr. Bellson was a 1942 graduate of my high school alma mater, Moline High School. His last performance in the Quad Cities was at the Redstone Room in Davenport, Iowa. He was born Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni on July 6, 1924.

Referred to by Duke Ellington as "the world's greatest drummer and musician," he has the "second highest number of appearances at the White House (only Bob Hope had more)" and was acclaimed by music greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and more.

Honestly, I don't know a lot about Louie Bellson or his music. I just knew that he made Moline very proud, and that people who did know him were happy they did.

As a Moline native as well as the wife of a singer and musician, I'm posting this to honor a man who brought joy to many people and whose music will continue to do so for years and years to come.

Mr. Bellson was buried in my neighborhood in Riverside Cemetery in Moline. These photos were taken the day after his burial on March 4. He has been laid to rest beside his father, Louie Bellson Sr.

Rest in peace.



Monday, March 9, 2009

Field Trip to Springfield, Ill. - May 2, 2009

Field Trip to Springfield, Ill. - May 2, 2009

**Note: We were originally going to visit the Museum of Funeral Customs, but I recently discovered that it has closed. So the trip has changed a bit. I have contacted a representative with "Reflections: The American Funeral" mobile exhibition. This exhibition travels around to various areas that "rent" it. I looked into the possibility of it coming to the Quad Cities, but it costs around $4,000 for a three-day minimum stay. Yikes! It will be in Springfield for a funeral director convention on May 2, and prior to that it will be in Oregon. This is an excellent chance to see this traveling exhibition.**

TheCemeteryClub.com is hosting a field trip to Springfield, Ill., leaving from Davenport, Iowa, on Saturday, May 2. Though details are still being confirmed, the trip itinerary will include:

- Depart from Oakdale Memorial Gardens, Davenport, Iowa @ 8:30 a.m.
- Arrive in Springfield @ 11:30 a.m.
- Lunch @ 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
- "Reflections: The American Funeral" mobile exhibition @ 12:45- 1:45 p.m.
- Oak Ridge Cemetery and Lincoln's Tomb @ 2-4:30 p.m.
- Dinner @ 4:30-5:15 p.m.
- Lincoln’s Ghost Walk: Legends & Lore @ 5:30-7 p.m.
- Depart Springfield
- Arrive back in Davenport @ 10:30 p.m.

We'll be renting 1-2 large passenger vans for the trip.

15 participant minimum for the trip, so invite your family and friends!

Departure time from Davenport, Iowa: 8:30 a.m.
Estimated return time to Davenport: 10 p.m.

Cost will be $45 per person, including Lincoln's Ghost Walk fee (through Springfield Walks). Meals are not included.

Registration and payment must be made by April 15. Send an e-mail to Minda to reserve your spot, and a PayPal invoice will be sent to you (payment may be made via PayPal or check).

If you live outside the immediate area, you may also join us on the field trip for the discounted price of $22 per person. E-mail Minda for details: minda.epitaphsmag@gmail.com

I hope you can make it!

Minda Powers-Douglas
Epitaphs Magazine
PO Box 1163
Moline, IL 61266-1163



Friday, March 6, 2009

If I post more, will you follow me anywhere?

I may not have posted for a while, but I've got a good post coming up. In fact, if you miss it and don't tell all of your online and offline friends to follow me, you will sooo be missing out. It's a tale of intrigue, love, lust and debauchery. It's the best of times, it's the worst of times. It's the final nail in the coffin.

What is it? I haven't thought of it yet. But when I do, it will be awesome!!!!!


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cemetery of the Day - Mt. Hope in Bangor, Maine

Mt. Hope is the subject of my cemetery of the day. I love Mt. Hope. It is a lovely garden cemetery in Bangor, Maine (the town made famous by Stephen King just because he lives there--when he's not in Florida). It was established in 1834 and is the second garden style cemetery in America. It consists of 300 acres of rolling hills, beautiful trees, ponds and just plain loveliness.

In 2004, my husband and I traveled to New England. One of my dreams had been to go to Maine. Ever since reading my first Stephen King book (Firestarter; I was in sixth grade), I wanted to go to Maine. I wanted to live in Maine. I hadn't even been there, and I knew it would be magnificent. And it is. It was a long time coming. We drove from Boston to Bangor, and let me just say that Maine is a really big state. It's as long as Illinois, and that's long. But it was worth the trip. Not only did we get to stand in front of Stephen King's house (I wasn't stalking you really, Mr. King), we also found Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Not only is Mt. Hope historical and beautiful, which are the two things that bring me to cemeteries, it was also featured in the movie Pet Sematary, based on the King book. The horror-meister also appeared in the movie.

I wandered the grounds as much as I could, taking pictures of everything. But there was so much. So much I wanted to see and still do. I saw incredible sculpture, white bronze, modern military memorials, tiny simple markers, and the little metal markers that the cemetery uses until a stone can be placed (but this one dated back many decades).

If you are ever near this cemetery, do not miss the chance to visit. It is indeed worth the time. and you'll want to take a lot of time there.

To learn more about Maine's Mt. Hope, please visit: http://www.mthopebgr.com/

Monday, February 16, 2009

I'm getting ticked now

Why aren't my links coming through on here? Grrrr.


Forgot the URL

You can Twitter me, tweet me, buy me cookies here. Or there. Clicky abovey.

Did you know ...?

Did you know that I'm on Twitter? I didn't either!!! Well, I did, but then I forgot. And then I got a whole new deal, so I could start fresh. So I did, and now I am. And I've been tweeting tonight and a little bit earlier. But I wasn't sure what to say. So I linked to this blog. And now you're reading my blog, and I'm telling you about Twitter. So you'll probably (maybe) go to Twitter to find me, and then it will direct you back here. Then you'll read this post and go back to Twitter, which will send you back here ... to which you will agree with me that I wish I could access Facebook from the home wireless connection any time I want to because I'm probably much less annoying on Facebook because people expect my antics on FB. But not here. Face it, I seldom post here. Because I've been lame. I'm hoping to resolve that. Is that the right word? Rectify? Requiem? This is what I get for eating a big, delicious cookie when I should be getting ready for bed.

I love cookies.

Cemetery of the Day - Holt Cemetery, New Orleans

To get myself back in the swing of blogging, I've decided to select a cemetery of the day and do a little show-and-tell. The first cemetery I've selected is my favorite in New Orleans.

Holt Cemetery

The first time I visited this cemetery back in December 2003, I fell in love with it. Holt is a cemetery for the poor and indigent, but I can't say it's a poor cemetery for it is rich with life and remembrances.

I've visited a great number of cemeteries, but not have the heart and sweet intensity of Holt. Located at 635 City Park Ave., it's near Delgado Community College but not much else, really. In fact, when I went back in December 2005, the cab driver and I had a heck of a time finding it.

It's often overgrown with weeds and tall grass. The grave markers (not all are gravestones) can get swallowed up in the greenery. But even though the ground is difficult to navigate (interments here are actually underground burials) due to the shifting of the earth from sinking graves, the lack of vaults and the tempestuous weather that New Orleans in known for, it's worth the risk of a twisted ankle to get into the thick of things at Holt.

Holt was established in 1879 and is owned by the city. While plots are no longer sold, burials still take place on the grounds in family plots. In fact, when I was there on a whirlwind tour with New Orleans historian and tour guide Rob Florence, a burial was taking place. First I didn't realize it was a burial. There was no back hoe, no family was present. Just one man with a shovel. The casket (assuming there was one) must have already been in the hole. I have a photo of the gravedigger at work in my book "Cemetery Walk." When I asked Rob why he wasn't using the modern equipment, he told me that the big equipment couldn't maneuver on the grounds. A back hoe would tip over and be of no use. All the grave and dug by hand, the old-time traditional way.

The grave markers themselves range from traditional gravestones to handmade. One grave has a coping made of white-painted cinder blocks. Some have crosses with names and dates painted on them. Others merely have upright pieces of wood with the names without any dates. In a family plot, people are essentially stacked upon one another as they are buried. Eventually all the bones mix together. In fact, it is not uncommon for pieces of bones to rise to the surface in this cemetery. During the clean-up day I attended after Hurricane Katrina, I came across a number of bones. It's hard to describe what that was like. I come from the Midwest, land of perfectly trimmed garden cemeteries. People are buried neatly in caskets and inside vaults. At Holt, there could be a wooden coffin, maybe a casket, maybe nothing. I can't say for sure, but it's a different world in that cemetery.

While Holt may sound like a sad place, it is just the opposite. For me, at least. It's a very active cemetery. Toys and flowers and objects of love are constantly placed throughout the cemetery. A child who died in the 1970s still has fresh toys left on her grave. Money doesn't mean everything. Holt gives new meaning to "it's the thought that counts."

There are some famed notables buried in Holt, too. Jazz cornetist Buddy Bolden (of the early 19th Century and Storyville times) is buried there. There is a large monument, by Holt's standards, that proudly stands in the cemetery, though the actually location of his grave is unknown (he died in 1907). Singer Jessie Hill is also buried there. He is famous for his R&B song “Ooh Pooh Pah Doo.”

Below I've included some links to blogs or articles on dear Holt. They feature photos of this amazing cemetery. The next time you visit New Orleans, make sure to stop by Holt for a visit and to pay your respects. And tell the residents that Minda sent you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

East Moline's Rose Lawn cemetery finally gets a savior

For years, Rose Lawn Memorial Estate has been in poor shape. I visited the cemetery a few years back and was disgusted at the "care" it was under.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of lawn markers, and this cemetery is one of the reasons why. While wandering the grounds, I found many flat markers covered in mud or dried dirt. The grass hadn't been mowed in a while, and it just wasn't a pleasant place. I felt very bad for anyone visiting loved ones in the cemetery, let alone those buried there. It's been a sad place. At least loved one were still visiting and leaving mementos on the graves.

I didn't think much about the cemetery until 2007 when I started hearing about the troubles it was having. The owner was a schmuck (no surprise there), and a number of people were complaining about him to "8 On Your Side," which is a service of a local news station. When they receive complaints about a business, they act as consumer advocates and investigate, reporting what they learn and the outcome on their broadcasts.

The owner, Richard Cody, lived in Wisconsin but denied ownership of the property when asked about it. The truth is, he was selling pre-need items that people never received--totally $260,000. He also sold pre-need funeral contracts without a license. The grounds were still in terrible condition, and families even decided to get together to clean up the area and get rid of the overgrowth. The Illinois State Comptroller got involved. Cody avoided court appearances.

As it turns out, Cody, committed suicide in November 2008.

A week ago, on Jan. 6, Gregory Vogele announced that he will will be taking over poor Rose Lawn. This is exciting and wonderful news for anyone with a loved one buried in Rose Lawn. Greg is the superintendent of Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island and has been for 30 years. He is the third generation Vogele superintendent, as a matter of fact. He knows the importance of cemeteries, and I know he will do his best to care for Rose Lawn until a new owner is announced.

Thank you, Greg!

To read more about this, visit: http://www.wqad.com/Global/story.asp?S=9627603

To read more about the past plight of Rose Lawn, visit:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I haven't posted on here for a while. My family took a vacation down to Disney World (we drove) then Christmas was upon us once we got back. But this time of year, who expects anything less?

The big cemetery-related news in my world is that the fall/winter 2008 issue of Epitaphs Magazine (#8) is done. It features an article with a number of photos on the July 21 storm that hit Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island, Illinois. More than 125 trees were destroyed.

It also features:
- What Is a Chrismon Anyway? (Dusty Smith)
- The Lost Children (Colleen Loefler)
- Digging Into Cemeteries: The Growing Popularity of Cemetery Blogging
- Salzburg's Gardens of the Dead (Michele Jankowski)
- Cameras 101 (Joshua Inayat)
- Necropolis (Ryan Coffman)
- Photos by Steven Hernandez
- Taphophiles are Multiplying Like Rabbits: The Story Behind the Association of Gravestone Rabbits (William "Terry" Thornton)
- Photos by Mike Smith
- An Interview with Buddy Phaneuf of the Internet Cremation Society
- Why Should We Care? The International Association of Cemetery Preservationists, Inc.
- The Lost Children (Colleen Loefler)
- The Crypt Keeper (Giselle Ladoceur-Borowicz)
- Book reviews
- I "Heart" Cemeteries (photography by Alzi Clanton, Polly Yuill, Jimmy Short, Tammy Jo Fuller, Ryan Coffman, Steven Hernandez)
- Why I'm a Taphophile (Peter Denniston, New Zealand)
- Back cover photo by Polly Yuill

To order your copy (print or electronic, visit www.TheCemeteryClub.com.


Epitaphs Magazine is Now Accepting Submissions for EM #9

Your submissions are needed! Send them in now to be part of Epitaphs Magazine #9. While all types of submissions of any theme are welcome, here are the themes I am looking for specifically:

- Metal work in the cemetery
- Scattering grounds
- Grave decorations (seasonal, etc.)
- Interesting epitaphs
- Strange angles (artsy photos)

Send your submissions in by Feb. 15 to:


Happy New Year, everyone!