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Crazy Cemetery Stories: The Name Game!

Updated on September 18, 2012
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This marks the third in my silly series of stories based on six years of employment at a fairly large, very busy cemetery. During that time I saw, heard, smelled, felt, thought, learned, said, and did things I never dreamed in a million years I would. I met all sorts of people in a constant stream of comedy and tragedy. It was certainly never boring. Before you start reading, keep in mind I mean no disrespect. I cared for each and every family served as if they were my own. I am honored to have helped thousands of people navigate through what is at the very least an uncomfortable experience. But this is life. Sometimes life is funny. And sometimes death is too.

The Name Game

I love names. Good sturdy names, quirky names, plain names, unique names. Scheduling hundreds of burials and assisting thousand of family members each year means I came across thousands of names. That doesn't include thousands of files in our file room and tens of thousands of people resting in the cemetery. It is bound to say that there would be some interesting names. Some names left my brain a second after I saw them, and some might never leave that little corner of my mind that they have settled into.

What's in a Name?

There were plenty of good old-fashioned Gertrudes and Harolds. And the timeless Marys and Josephs. And the nicknames you don't hear much anymore. Betty and Peggy and Frank and Dick. And the bad jokes. "Hi Larry. How can I help you?" "Surely, you can help my bury Shirley!" Ha ha. Very clever. And oh the surnames! The common ones were enough to make my head spin: Thomson, Thompson, Tomson, Clark, Clarke, Schwartz, Swartz, Schwarz! And the uncommon ones. What fun I had coming accross these. We had a Mr. Salamander, a whole bunch of Fishes, quite a few Husseys. And the combinations! There are certain name combos that just should not exist, except that they make me giggle. I wonder how bad a married name would have to be before the woman says: I love you honey, but I am keeping my name! I am sure that never happens. Love comes first, right? Besides. What girl wouldn't want to be called Ivanna Beaver!

Just Call Me Donna

I suppose one way to avoid an unfavorable name combination is to use just one name, as with Donna. Like many people do, Donna came to the cemetery to make prearrangements, including her grave marker. When it came to the inscription for her name, she simply indicated DONNA. No Miss or Ms. No initial. No surname. Simply Donna. Why she chose this I do not know. Did she dislike her surname? Bad blood perhaps? Or was she unsure what it was going to be at the time of her passing. You never know how many spouses you are going to have these days. I don't think it was a case of a bad combination. I surely would have remembered that. I don't. I don't remember her last name at all. And neither did the advisor when her grave marker arrived. It was delivered reading simply DONNA. He and I looked at each other and thought the same thing. Donna who?! So long had passed and the file was returned to the drawers of thousands. Filed by last name. The best strategy I could offer was to wait until donna passed away. Then when her file is pulled, in it will be the paperwork for her gravemarker. Problem solved! Someone did eventually recall her name and marker and owner were reunited. Good for Donna.

Yes, Her Name was Frank

This is a case of a first name causing confusion. I was put in the position of assisting a young lady with designing a grave marker for her great-grandmother. The old grave was never marked and she felt it was about time someone pay tribute to this woman. But she was unsure how to put her name. As far as this young lady knew, the woman's first name was Frank. I could tell this made her uneasy. She asked me if she should put Frank as the name on the marker, or should she put Frances. Normally, I tried not to make decisions for families. It was not for me to decide for them, but to guide them. I read every scrap of paper in this woman's file and scoured everything related to her burial. There was not a Frances or Francine or Frankie anywhere. It always said Frank. That is even how she signed her name. I showed the signature to her great-grandaughter, and told this young lady that her great-grandma was named Frank. And that was a fact. If great-grandma was proud enough to use that name and sign that name and didn't feel it necessary to replace it with a nickname or initial then she should honor that. If she was afraid that people would look down at Frank and think she was a man (you know that is what caused the hesitation) then she could put flowers and an inscription like "beloved great-grandmother". And that is what she did. We designed a beautiful marker and I put in the order. A few days later I got a call from our representative at the manufacturer confirming that the order was supposed to read Frank. Yes. Her name was Frank. After that was an inquiry from the production department. Yes. Her name was Frank. When the marker arrived I submitted the paperwork to the superintendent to have it placed. With a note that read: Yes. Her name was Frank. Figured I would answer before they asked. You know the question was coming!

Potty Humor

And then there is Miss Tinkle. I came across her file while looking for another. It made me smile. Sadie Tinkle. What a cute name. It brought up an image of a sweet little old lady. Of soft metallic sounds. Piano keys. And of peeing. Sorry Sadie! Miss Sadie Tinkle became one of my favorite names. And then she died. I scheduled her service and typed it on our schedule by typewriter on to a long sheet of paper. Talk about old-fashioned! I was sad for Miss TInkle's passing. But that didn't stop a little smile coming to my face each time I saw her name. That little smile soon turned to hysterical laughter. Side-splitting, stomach hurting, bring you to tears laughter. I got a call to schedule another service. This one for Mr. Doody. I very professionally took the information despite the urge to crack a joke. Yes. I can be that immature. I sat at the typewriter and lined up the sheet to add Mr. Doody. Directly under Miss TInkle! And that's when it started. I chuckled. Tinkle and Doody! Then I reviewed Mr. Doody's file as was standard practice. And listed was a daughter. Jennifer Brown. That is when I completely lost it. I had just scheduled a serivice for Miss TInkle, followed by one for Mr. Doody, possibly to be attended by Mrs. Brown! Tinkle, Doody, Brown! You can't make things like this up! It makes me smile to this day.

As I say at the start of this hub, I mean no disrespect. I have heard my share of jokes at the expense of my last name. I thnk it's just in some people's nature to point out the humorous and obsurd. So I will say thank you to Miss TInkle and Mr. Doody for making me laugh so hard I nearly tinkled right then and there!

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    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Nettlemere - I agree completelty. I bet most don't notice the intials. Guess no monogramming for those folks! :)

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I feel sorry for the ones whose parent's give them a dodgy set of initials as well, maybe they genuinely didn't notice when they chose the names that the initials read PIG or whatever!

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Netllemere - Thanks for stopy by to ready my wacky stories. I do find it unfortunalte, and quite funny, that some wones get stuck with odd married names. What I will never get is parent's that curse thieut children with odd names. It's cute and funy to the rest of the world, but and endless source of annoyance for the person with the name, For example I was listenting to a radio program and the girl that called up was named Summer Tyme, I bet she can't wait to get married! Unless his surname is something like Day :)

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      You did well to manage to keep a straight face when necessary dealing with these people's names. I taught someone called Theresa Green (she'd married into the surname) and grinned every time I did the register for that class and read the name.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Hello Jaye - so happy to make u laugh!!! Thank u for the vote :)

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Brainy Bunny - I had the same thoughts about Mrs brown! It is amazing the names people walk around with. Can u imagine your married name being Joy Ryder? Her husbnabd was Richard. That is enough for me to keep my maiden name! :)

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Thomas. Good to see you. Trust me, when I was told I would be working at a cemetery I didn't think it would be anything like it was. That place was a mad house in good ways and bad. I am happy to share the lighter side with friends like you.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Docmo - you have to stop leaving such amazing comments. I am goitong to start believing that I could be a real writer!..... I bet working in an ER has many moments of hilarity!... I am just one of those people that feels the need to share exceptional moments with people. I am so glad that I can do it in an enjoyable way.... when my book gets published I will be sure to reserve u a signed copy. :)

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Daisy- shame on me for taking so long to respond to you. I am mortified... if you think this is funny to read, you should have been there! I have two more installations lined up. Now just to get them written and published.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This hub provided my big laughs of the day. Voted Up and (very) Funny!

      Jaye

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      I don't often laugh out loud while reading Hubs, but imagining if Ms. Brown had hyphenated her name (to Brown-Doody, of course) set me off! It reminded me of a time when I met a woman whose married name was Candy Korn -- no joke!

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Dana,

      lol...well I never thought I would think it...but now I wouldn't mind working in a cemetery!! Who knew such jocularity rested six-feet under? Wonderful example of the ability to find a chuckle in the most unlikely places!

      Thomas

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      Dana- this reminds me working in ER ( called A&E here in UK) and picking up the patient name cards before calling them in or asking the nurses to call them. Over the years the roll call of laugh worthy names does accumulate. This is a wonderfully humorous series and I love your writing style and sense of humor. There are many who work in many jobs who may let millions of anecdotes pass by- it is only the observant and the innately creative who are able to take their experiences and turn it into something worth sharing. You are one of those. Please let this grow into a bestselling book.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Dana,

      I don't think I've ever laughed so much reading a hub as I did when I read this article.

      Please continue this series. It's wonderful!

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Vicki - Thanks for stopping buy and for the compliments. It was a great place to work. Sad at times, funny as heck others. Glad you enjoyed it. There are plenty more to come.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      hahahahaha. So, so funny, Dana! I'm glad you can see the humor in things like this We have to. I appreciate your sense of humor. I'm going to have to read some other of your graveyard series. Well done. Many votes!

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Bill - you are close. My brother did some research. My last name seems to be the result of an identity crisis. My family came from an area that flip-flopped between French and German. And so the name flip-flopped between French (Strange) and German (Strang). They finally settled on the German. Though that didn't save me from friends and coworkers joking that it should be Strange, cuz I am. All of the women that have married into the family hate the name. It is such a headache! Strang, Strange, Strong, String, Strung all pop up on mail and in conversation. You have no idea how much mail I've receive addressed to Donna Strong. A lovely name, but certainly not mine! :)

      PerahpsI will just tell them all my name is simply Bill. :)

      Enjoy the rest of your day.

      See you around.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That is an interesting last name; quite often when the immigrants came over here in the 17th and 18th Centuries last names were misspelled on the register in places like Ellis Island and it just stuck for years. I wonder if that's what happened with your.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Bill - as always thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment. i really enjoy writing these. they are becoming effortless. it's a nice break from the serious or professional stuff (working on some of those now).

      Names really are great. Those are some great names in your family. Who dropped the ball with yours?! (kidding of course). i have the fun of a first name with can be a man or a woman. i had a class in college with another dana, male. talk about confusing. we sort of turned into "boy dana" and "girl dana".

      And I might as well share the fun with you about my last name. Strang. No there is not an E at the end! though perhaps there should be! And believe me i have seen it misspelled with every other vowel besides an A. Come on people! :)

    • DanaTeresa profile image
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      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      mizjo - thank you for the compliments. i hate photos of me. silly i know. but it was about time to stop hiding. i like to see toher hubbers put themselves out there so i joined the club!

      about the sourpusses. boy do i wish that were true! we had such a great little family working there that sometime it was more ilke play. but always professional when we had tobe. who wants to work somewhere that isnt fun. well a few of the board members and my new boss did not see things that way. i think that has a lot to do with why i don't work there anymore. what a bunch of meanies! and i think they did a real disservice to the cemetery and the families by chasing of and firing all of the "good" people. At least i can keep the fun going with my stories!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Love it Dana! My sister's name was Darlys, my mother's name was Evelyn and my grandmother's name was Belva! No ordinary names on that side of the family; where's the fun in ordinary?

      Loved the hub and it did indeed have me laughing.

      Have a wonderful day my friend!

      bill

    • mizjo profile image

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      If you sent a lot of habitual sourpusses to work in a cemetery, will they become good humored after a few years?

      That's a nice photo of you, Dana, why did it take you so long?

      This is another cute hub. Good writing!

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks. I think of smiles and laughter as a gift to my readers. Glad you liked it.

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 5 years ago from Canada

      This hub had me smiling all the way through. Sadie Tinkle, how could you not giggle. You are a wonderful story teller and what great material. Keep it coming.