On this Memorial Day I would like to tell you about my American Hero. Carl Lewis Markert was born in Phillipsburg, NJ on March 11, 1918. He was the only younger brother of my Grandmother, Helen Marie Markert Keith. Carl, or "Hun" as the family called him, was a shipping and receiving clerk in Phillipsburg but wanted to be a pilot in the Army Air Forces in early 1941. However, his eyesight was not good enough to be a pilot, so he was assigned to the next best thing, an Army Air Force Engineers Aviation Battalion that was responsible for outfitting planes, maintaining the runways and other building and maintenance duties designed to support the Army Air Force. Hun's enlistment date was June 2, 1941. After basic training he and his unit were eventually assigned to Corregidor in the Philippine Islands. On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the Japanese Army launched an attack on the American forces stationed at Bataan and Corregidor. For over 5 months the troops held up valiantly before eventually being forced to surrender to the Japanese. What followed was the infamous Bataan Death March and Hun and his unit were part of it. Every American should know what the Bataan Death March was because those soldiers who marched and the many of them that died on the march, embody the very reason why we celebrate Memorial Day. For the soldiers that made it to the end of the death march, most went to the Camp O'Donnell P.O.W. Camp but others, including Hun and his surviving buddies, went to the Cabanatuan P.O.W. Camp. This was the camp made famous in the movie, "The Great Raid," where American Special Forces launched a surprise attack on the camp to rescue P.O.W.'s. The conditions were absolutely horrible and the treatment by the Japanese was sickening. Disease, malnutrition and eventually death spread all over the camp and many soldiers did not make it. Hun lost his battle on October 15, 1942 when he succumbed to dysentery. How I found his grave is another story for another time. Today I want to salute him and all of the soldiers who gave their lives for our country so that we can live in freedom. There is a man who delivers documents to my office from a local law firm and he is 90 and was a B-17 tail gunner in Europe during WWII. I once talked to him and said that I was honored to be speaking with a real hero and member of "The Greatest Generation." He stopped me and said, "Oh no, I am not a hero. The real heroes were the guys who never made it home and are still over there." We should all take that to heart this Memorial Day.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
This barber has a unique place in the history of our country. Johnson L. Terry, an African-American living in Reading, PA enlisted in the Union Army on December 19, 1863. He was assigned to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an all volunteer regiment and, most importantly, one of the first African-American units in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. The unit was organized in March, 1863, only 2 months after President Lincoln had issued his Emancipation Proclamation. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry was made famous in the movie, "Glory." Terry was mustered out of the Army as a Full Corporal on August 20, 1865 and returned to Reading after fighting for his nation. I salute him and all members of our Armed Services this day and, especially, all those soldiers who fought for our country and did not return home. Tomorrow I will honor the memory of one such man - a very special man and member of my own family.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Alexander Biddle was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and worked with his father until the start of the Civil War. He served in the 121st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and saw action at the battles of Fredericksburg, Gettysburg (under General Abner Doubleday), Chancellorsville and the battle of Bristoe Station. After the war be became a director of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Philadelphia Savings Fund Company. He was instrumental in organizing the Ridgway Library which is part of the library company of Philadelphia. Another unsung American hero who rightly deserves our thanks this Memorial Day Weekend.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Here lies General Jonathan Williams, the first Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Williams was born in Boston in 1751 and was the Grandnephew of Benjamin Franklin. From 1770 - 1785, Williams was in England and France assisting Franklin with his affairs. He was appointed to various posts by Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and also commanded the Army Corps of Engineers. From 1807 - 1812, General Williams designed and built Castle Williams (the East Battery and named for him) and Castle Clinton (the West Battery) in New York Harbor. He resigned from the Army in 1812 because Secretary of War Henry Eustis refused to give him command of his namesake, Castle Williams. General Williams was elected to Congress in 1814, but died before the Congress assembled.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
TOMBSTONE OF GENERAL HENRY H. BINGHAM (MEDAL OF HONOR WINNER) - Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA
This is a very classy and respectful tomb at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. The cemetery is full of heroes and this is one of them. General Henry H. Bingham was born in Philadelphia and was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the United States Army in the 140th Pennsylvania Voluntary Infantry in 1862. He was a Captain on the staff of Union General Winfield Scott Hancock at the battle of Gettysburg and witnessed Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863 from near the now famous "Bloody Angle" and the high water mark on Cemetery Hill. It was Bingham who told General Hancock about Hancock's mortally wounded friend, Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead. During the wicked battle of The Wilderness on May 6, 1864, Bingham rallied and led the remnants of his unit after fierce attacks by the Confederates. For this fearless act of bravery, Bingham was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1893. He achieved the rank of Brigadier General near the end of the war, in April, 1865. After the war, Bingham was appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia by President Andrew Johnson in 1867 and served until 1872, when he resigned to become Clerk of the Quarter Sessions of Philadelphia. General Bingham was elected to Congress in 1878 and served until his death. Notice on the tombstone the inscribed Medal of Honor above the name and the very neat initials of the General below the name. As Memorial Day Weekend begins, let's salute and thank this American hero and distinguished public servant.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
One of the strangest feelings I ever got while taking cemetery and mausoleum pics is when I visited a 6-floor mausoleum located in St. John Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, NY. I was on a mission to photograph the tomb of the "Dapper Don," John Gotti, probably one of the most famous mob bosses of all time. I knew he was in the mausoleum, but with a building of 6 floors, each floor the length of a football field with about 20 small atriums off shooting the long corridors, it would have taken me all day to find the crypt. So, with camera in hand I asked a man who was not a cemetery employee if he knew where the crypt was. He shrugged, looked me straight in the eye and said, "I do not know what you are talking about, buddy," and walked away. Some other people who were nearby saw and heard our brief exchange of words and walked away from me about the same time as I was going to ask them if they knew where Gotti was. Not to be deterred, I wandered around the mausoleum for a short while until I came upon a cemetery employee. I asked him where Gotti was interred. He looked around from side to side, and then waved me into a small atrium and quickly said, "He is upstairs, on the ___ level." Thanking him I quickly went up to the floor and found the crypt after some very strange looks from a lot of people who were visiting their beloved dead that day. When I started taking photographs, the looks from the people got even more intense and I actually felt for a short time that I might be asked to leave or, even worse, "escorted" out. The crypt is located on an immaculately decorated floor of the mausoleum. The floor is carpeted, with fancy lamps and very comfortable chairs and sofas, along with private chapels. The crypt fronts are wood and very ritzy. I actually felt like a stranger in some body's home when I was there - almost like I was trespassing! I really was anxious the whole time I was there and was very, very uneasy as I took the pictures. As soon as I got the pictures, I quickly walked out and got out of that cemetery as fast as possible. I really felt anxious the whole time I was driving away from the cemetery. I began to feel better once I was out of New York and listening to a Puccini opera as I drove home to Pennsylvania. When I looked at the pics after I got home, I noticed some weird "orbs" or water marks or whatever in one of the pictures. I took 2 shots of the same view and one of them has these "orbs" and one of them does not. Strange. Who knows what it is? Could it be John's spirit making himself known and "encouraging" me to leave?
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Y, do you ask, is this stone today's DailyTombstonePhoto? Well, first off, it is a very intriguing stone at Laurel Hill Cemetery. John Yarrow must have had some connection to Philadelphia; I have not been able to find much information on him. However, his stone says he was born in London and that he died in Savannah, GA. Perhaps he did live in Philadelphia and he was on a trip to Savannah when he died? We are not sure. What we do know is that this is a wonderful stone and signifies that Mr. Yarrow was very proud of at least his last name and that he was religious as well.
Monday, May 24, 2010
This is pretty much an entire family group sheet on a tombstone! Just wonderful for genealogists. This couple must have been into genealogy! I apologize for not framing the photo better to include the entire stone, but I was so taken by the information it lists that my genealogy instincts overtook my photographic instincts in this instance. Enjoy!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Col Maurice Edward Fagan has the distinction of probably being the only person to die at his own grave site. Fagan, a Civil War veteran, returned from the war with much emotional and physical suffering. When his sister, Fanny, who is buried nearby, committed suicide, Fagan attempted it as well but failed. However, in February of 1898, Fagan wrote to his family and told them that by the time they read his letter he would be dead and that he was going to die at Laurel Hill Cemetery by the plot reserved for him in the Fagan family plot. On February 4, 1898, Fagan went to the cemetery and upon the plot reserved for him shot himself through the head and died. His family found him at this spot. His bereaved brother erected this tombstone in his memory.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
MEMORIAL TOMBSTONE OF THE UNIDENTIFIED VICTIMS OF THE RHOADS OPERA HOUSE FIRE - Fairview Cemetery, Boyertown, Berks County, PA
One of the 10 worst fires in American history occurred on the night of January 13, 1908 at the Rhoads Opera House in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. On that night, 171 people were killed in a fire that spread fast throughout the building. Many of the victims were trampled to death because of doors that did not open outward, but inward, trapping them when the fire and panic broke out. It was a national story for many days and the entire nation grieved at the tragedy. A local school was turned into a makeshift mortuary and painstaking efforts were made to identify the deceased. Many were identified by the jewelry or clothing they wore. Of the 171 who died, 25 were unable to be identified, despite every effort being made. Local leaders pondered the dilemma of not being able to present families with the remains of their beloved deceased while still facing the reality that the remains needed to be buried and properly memorialized. The solution was that a large plot of land was donated in the nearby Fairview Cemetery and funds were raised for the erection of a suitable monument to the deceased. Each one of the 25 unidentified individuals was given the dignity of a proper burial and all 25 are buried in separate graves. The memorial has held up well during the 102 years it has stood and an extreme sadness is felt when it is visited. It continues to stand as a reminder of that terrible night in January of 1908.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
This is one of the fanciest mausoleums located on "Millionaire's Row" at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. Once again, this cemetery is one of a kind and a real treasure. The mausoleum is very ornate. Notice the stately columns and very neat designs above and below the family name. I also like how this mausoleum is built right into the hillside and blends right in.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
This is one magnificent monument to this family. What does it tell us? Well, it tells us the family was very much Catholic - faith meant a lot to each member. The beautiful carving of Christ taken down from the Cross is breathtaking. The stone also tells us that this family was very close and they loved art and they loved each other very much. The cameos of the father and mother are wonderful and really help to show those of us in later generations what they looked like. I love stones like this! You can actually see who is buried below you - it makes each stone personal and special. Bottom line - this tombstone/memorial is a real piece of art!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Today's stone is that of the longtime Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Edgar Hoover. He made the FBI what it is today - the preeminent law enforcement agency in the World. If you are reading this and were alive during the time when Hoover ruled over the FBI, you might want to do a Freedom of Information Act request on yourself because maybe there is an FBI file on you. I'm not joking, either. Hoover and the FBI created files on many Americans, many of whom lived absolutely normal lives. However, his extreme suspicion of people prompted him to investigate many Americans. Can you imagine if he was running the FBI in today's world? Hoover is buried in this simple plot with his sister and parents. Retired agents of the FBI have constructed the gate around the plot as well as the bench that sits in front of the grave.
Monday, May 17, 2010
According to Wikipedia, "Paul Specht was an American dance bandleader popular in the 1920's." He was born in Sinking Spring, trained as a violinist and first led his own band in 1916, when he toured the Western United States. He signed a record contract with Columbia Records in 1922, where he made records playing with a large dance ensemble and with a smaller Jazz group known as "The Georgians." He toured England several times and set up a Jazz School for Musicians there in 1924. Notable among his career highlights was that his orchestra was the very first to broadcast for the RCA Company and the first to be in films after the silent era ended. Specht spent his later years in New York City, having remained popular in the 1930's and 1940's. Towards the end of his life he arranged for radio and TV and died in New York in 1954. His stone has a nice musical quote above his name. No doubt this was from one of his songs.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Hey all - Be sure to visit the newly created DailyTombstonePhoto channel on YouTube right here: http://www.youtube.com/user/DailyTombstonePhoto. There are videos of some of the stones I have posted on the site the last few months as well as a few of my ancestors' graves. I will post more videos in the future, so keep checking back and, as always, please continue to visit DailyTombstonePhoto for your daily dose of cemetery-genealogy.
TOMBSTONE/MEMORIAL OF LEVI FRANKLIN SMITH & CATHERINE DRINKHOUSE SMITH - Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA
This monument is a genealogist's dream! I have never seen a stone with such detail as to when the persons buried underneath were born and died and where they lived. Amazing! Of course, all the information on this stone should be verified with primary and secondary sources. Not only does the stone tell when each person was born and died, it also gives a small summary of each one's life. A beautiful memorial. These folks MUST have been Genealogists in their day!! Interesting to note is that both persons were described as "spiritualists" and Mrs. Smith's panel describes her as "one of the best known mediums of her time." I am sure she foretold that many, many genealogists would marvel over her and her husband's graves!
Saturday, May 15, 2010
TOMBSTONES & GRAVES OF DUANE ALLMAN AND BERRY OAKLEY - Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Bibb County, Georgia
No doubt the most visited graves in Rose Hill Cemetery are those of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley of The Allman Brothers Band. While I was photographing other graves in the cemetery a car came up to me with 3-4 persons wanting desperately to know where "Duane's and Berry's graves are." Later on that same day when I was preparing to leave, another car barrelled through the entrance and I knew immediately where it was heading.
I confess that I know very little about Duane Allman, Berry Oakley or their music. But my brother, Matt, is a fan and was greatly interested when I told him I visited these graves and photographed them. As you can see from the landscaping of the burial plots, photographing the graves is not easy. Much plant growth inhibits clear pictures of the stones and this is evidenced by my only being able to get a clear shot of Duane's grave and not Oakley's. Further, the graves are located in a remote and "sectioned off" area of the cemetery. But the location is very peaceful and the stones are interesting. Being a music lover, I especially like the notes surrounding Duane's tombstone, probably from one of the Allman Brothers Band's songs.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Another magnificent memorial in a magnificent cemetery. I am very fortunate to live within 50 miles of Laurel Hill Cemetery and every time I visit I discover hidden treasures I had not noticed before. Mr. Pepper's tombstone is quite unique. His birth and death dates are inscribed on the circular art patterns on the side of the casket-type memorial. Below his name, I believe, is also the name of the artist of the memorial. The Angel on top is very beautiful and reminds me of some of the art we see at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. A very nice, one of a kind memorial.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
The great composer Rachmaninoff is featured today. I still love listening to his piano concertos and hear new things in them every time I listen. Rachmaninoff and his wife are buried in the front of the flowers and their daughter is buried to the left closest to the cross. The entire lot is nicely landscaped and very peaceful. Of course, when I parked my car and prepared my camera for the pictures, I played the ending of the First Movement of the 2nd Piano Concerto on my car's CD player while playing "air piano."
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Today's grave is that of Little Gracie Watson. The third photo tells the story of this grave well, so I encourage everyone to read it. When I took these pictures the Sun had just come up and I was all alone in the cemetery. It was the first time I actually felt "spooked." As I photographed Gracie's grave, I could swear her eyes followed me as I moved. Go and visit and see for yourself.