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Cemetery Curiosities

Updated on December 4, 2012
The Shepherdess greets visitors and mourners at the gate with an offering of a rose.
The Shepherdess greets visitors and mourners at the gate with an offering of a rose.
Shirley Chisholm, Congresswoman (November 30, 1924 - January 1, 2005)
Shirley Chisholm, Congresswoman (November 30, 1924 - January 1, 2005) | Source

A Place of Historical Wealth

If you are a history buff, but have become tired of the usual offerings provided by museums, historical societies and art galleries, why not try something different? The local cemetery can provide a plethora of information about long-departed, people but with a more personal flair. Not only will you see the humanity behind the famous reputation, you'll learn more about the lives of his/her family members and how they all chose to be remembered.

Although this hobby can be a daunting challenge, it certainly has its rewards. On this trip alone I learned much more about certain individuals that isn't readily available in books and other media. I was touched to learn about those who may have had an infamous reputation in life are still very much cared for in death as proven by the fresh flowers and trinkets left at the graves. Along with this new insight, I also experienced an unexpected treat. The cemetery has become a sanctuary to many wildlife creatures. To my surprise I encountered deer, wild turkeys, wild geese (Canadian and the formerly domesticated Greylag), and mallard ducks. What makes this so bizarre is the fact that Buffalo is a fairly urban city and the cemetery is situated directly in the center.

Forest Lawn Cemetery has enjoyed a rich, eternal heritage since its creation in 1849. Many notable people are buried here with additions as recent as the late Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm who was the first African-American woman to be elected to congress. Mrs. Chisholm was laid to rest at Forest Lawn next to her husband, Arthur Hardwick, Jr., a Buffalo businessman.

Mausoleums Bearing Gifts

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The mausoleum vault of Chester and Gloria Stachura. They offered their guests a permanent chairs to rest on during visits.Take your pick, sit and reflect.Van Clief Mausoleum:  Mr. and Mrs. Van Clief were Buffalo nobility associated with fascism.  It is noted that the wife, Helen, received a token from Benito Mussolini for her support of his reign.  The couple believed Mussolini could end communism. The beautiful Van Clief stained glass door.  The reason I took the photo.
The mausoleum vault of Chester and Gloria Stachura.
The mausoleum vault of Chester and Gloria Stachura.
They offered their guests a permanent chairs to rest on during visits.
They offered their guests a permanent chairs to rest on during visits.
Take your pick, sit and reflect.
Take your pick, sit and reflect.
Van Clief Mausoleum:  Mr. and Mrs. Van Clief were Buffalo nobility associated with fascism.  It is noted that the wife, Helen, received a token from Benito Mussolini for her support of his reign.  The couple believed Mussolini could end communism.
Van Clief Mausoleum: Mr. and Mrs. Van Clief were Buffalo nobility associated with fascism. It is noted that the wife, Helen, received a token from Benito Mussolini for her support of his reign. The couple believed Mussolini could end communism.
The beautiful Van Clief stained glass door.  The reason I took the photo.
The beautiful Van Clief stained glass door. The reason I took the photo.

Artistic Expression

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Blue-Sky Mausoleum:  Originally designed in 1928 by Frank Lloyd Wright for Darwin D. Martin and constructed by Forest Lawn in 2004.  The memorial is situated on a hill and ascends down towards a reflecting pool.The inscription on the Blue-Sky Mausoleum.The reflecting pool at the base of the memorial.One of many decorative markers throughout the cemetery.  Notice the detail of the bronze buffalo.Birge Memorial:  George K. Birge, long identified with Buffalo industrial progress, nationally known manufacture of wallpaper and a leader in the automobile industry.  It is a replica based on Greek architecture.
Blue-Sky Mausoleum:  Originally designed in 1928 by Frank Lloyd Wright for Darwin D. Martin and constructed by Forest Lawn in 2004.  The memorial is situated on a hill and ascends down towards a reflecting pool.
Blue-Sky Mausoleum: Originally designed in 1928 by Frank Lloyd Wright for Darwin D. Martin and constructed by Forest Lawn in 2004. The memorial is situated on a hill and ascends down towards a reflecting pool.
The inscription on the Blue-Sky Mausoleum.
The inscription on the Blue-Sky Mausoleum.
The reflecting pool at the base of the memorial.
The reflecting pool at the base of the memorial.
One of many decorative markers throughout the cemetery.  Notice the detail of the bronze buffalo.
One of many decorative markers throughout the cemetery. Notice the detail of the bronze buffalo.
Birge Memorial:  George K. Birge, long identified with Buffalo industrial progress, nationally known manufacture of wallpaper and a leader in the automobile industry.  It is a replica based on Greek architecture.
Birge Memorial: George K. Birge, long identified with Buffalo industrial progress, nationally known manufacture of wallpaper and a leader in the automobile industry. It is a replica based on Greek architecture.

Wildlife Sanctuary Cemetery

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A young deer.  One of many.  This guy was really camera shy.  He hid behind a grave marker until I tricked him and moved my car a bit.Greylag geese.  Hard to photograph since they were on the run.Mallard ducksWild turkeysCanadian Geese
A young deer.  One of many.  This guy was really camera shy.  He hid behind a grave marker until I tricked him and moved my car a bit.
A young deer. One of many. This guy was really camera shy. He hid behind a grave marker until I tricked him and moved my car a bit.
Greylag geese.  Hard to photograph since they were on the run.
Greylag geese. Hard to photograph since they were on the run.
Mallard ducks
Mallard ducks
Wild turkeys
Wild turkeys
Canadian Geese
Canadian Geese

Be Respectful

Try It, You'll Like It

Although I experienced a few issues such getting lost (even with a map), a loss of sunlight and mounds of goose poo, it was a wonderful experience. I highly recommend taking a trek in your neighborhood cemetery. However, there are a few common sense rules you should adhere to:

  • Stay off the grass. It is rude to walk on the grass since you will probably be walking on someone's grave. If you must walk up to the grave, walk in between grave plots. This way you do not desecrate someone's resting place. NOTE: If while you are visiting you see mourners at a grave, be courteous of their privacy by not advancing until they have cleared out. After all, they are there to respect to their loved ones.
  • Be mindful of other traffic. Joggers, animals and other cemetery visitors will also be present. Be careful to drive extremely slowly and cautiously.
  • Do not overstay your welcome. I am guilty of this. The photo of the gate was taken while the caretaker was in the process of closing it. I felt a bit like a heel.
  • Be respectful. Do not feed the animals, it will make them sick. Do not litter or drive off the pathway.

Notables and Oddities

Final resting place of Rick James.  (February 1, 1948 - August 6, 2004) Rick James' real name is James Ambrose Johnson, Jr.  He was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. Other notables:  John J. Albright, Developer and Millard Fillmore, President
Final resting place of Rick James. (February 1, 1948 - August 6, 2004) Rick James' real name is James Ambrose Johnson, Jr. He was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. Other notables: John J. Albright, Developer and Millard Fillmore, President
William G. Fargo:  Organizer with Henry Wells of the first transcontinental Express Service, conducted by these men thereafter as the Wells Fargo Express.  The bank still exists today, although recently bought out by M & T Bank.
William G. Fargo: Organizer with Henry Wells of the first transcontinental Express Service, conducted by these men thereafter as the Wells Fargo Express. The bank still exists today, although recently bought out by M & T Bank.
A skull necklace left behind.  It was near the grave of Rick James.  It's so spooky, I guessed it was a relic left over from some Halloween prank or All Hallows' Eve ritual. :)
A skull necklace left behind. It was near the grave of Rick James. It's so spooky, I guessed it was a relic left over from some Halloween prank or All Hallows' Eve ritual. :)
The cemetery is still very much active.  Here's a plot so fresh, the marker hasn't been installed yet.
The cemetery is still very much active. Here's a plot so fresh, the marker hasn't been installed yet.

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