A cemetery puzzlement – where’s the stone?

It is amazing now that we didn’t smash our heads into the trees, riding those crooked trails.

When my sister Leslie and I were in Binghamton in early October, we decided to go visit a couple grave sites. Frankly, it’s not something I do all that often, but since my sibling hardly ever gets to this side of the country, I decided that it’d be interesting.

First, we went to Floral Park Cemetery in nearby Johnson City, not very far from where our family moved to during my freshman year in college. I had found my paternal grandmother Agatha Green’s grave in 2013, and I was certain that I could discover it again. We traipsed through the entirety of Section M, but neither of us could find it.

Yet we were indeed in the right place. I showed her the nearby headstones of her father Samuel Walker, who I remember. He died in 1963, only a year before Agatha, a fact I had forgotten. It was also the location for the grave of Agatha’s brother Earl (1904 – 1961) – him I also recall; and his sister Melissa Walker Jackson (1914-1955), who I remember only in photos. Most mysterious.

Then we were onto Spring Forest Cemetery in the First Ward of Binghamton, my part of town growing up. We used to sled in there, back in the day. It is amazing now that we didn’t smash our heads into the trees, riding those crooked trails. We also would cut across the cemetery to play baseball at Ansco field.

We easily found the gravestone of Lilian Yates Holland, my maternal grandmother’s mother, her her son Ed Yates’, and a couple people named Archer, who are related to us in some fashion.

Peculiarly, there has never been a marker for either my maternal grandmother, Gertrude Yates Williams, who died on Super Bowl Sunday 1982, or her sister Adenia, who died in the mid-1960s, and are buried in the same section. My sisters and I have decided to rectify this in the coming year, though we also said that LAST year.

To quote Bullwinkle J. Moose, “This time for sure!”

The Lydster: very grave situation

hickey-gravestoneThe family went to this fair at a church in Claverack, NY, SSE of Albany. The Wife sees a friend who connects with that one time a year. The Daughter played on the swing, but I headed for the adjacent cemetery.

My maternal grandmother Gert and her sister Adenia have no gravestones. Gram died on Super Bowl Sunday 1982, and my aunt Deana a decade and a half earlier. So I decided to check out the condition of the memorials.

I noticed right off that many of them have a covering of green substance I believe to be lichen. Some are more prone than others.

The Daughter, finished on the swing, joined me in the cemetery. I started cleaning off the lichen with the back of a plastic fork I happened to have, and she used an old pen to clean out the letters. I wish I had taken a “before” picture, but one could barely see HICKEY, and the names below were not visible. As you can probably tell, there is still plenty of lichen there, but at least it’s readable.

Ah, Mildred Rowe was a couple of years OLDER than her husband, but outlived him by a couple of decades.

duntz-gravestone-before duntz-gravestone-after
Pleased with our work, we went onto another grave. Headstones tell interesting stories. The Duntz couple had two kids. Emily died before she was 40, and Azano didn’t make it to his 18th birthday. The parents buried both of their children.

Interestingly, there are separate little headstones at ground level for AZANO, EMILY, and MOTHER (Edna Alger), but not for the father, Ellis, because others evidently made that determination.

Later, with friends, I’ve had several conversations about making plans for that time after death so that family members don’t have fights about it. I speak from experience in this matter.

shook-headstone-before shook-headstone-after
We had almost run out of time – the Wife was calling us to have lunch at the event – but we thought this one headstone needed our help, not so much from the lichen, but from some other growth. Even together, we could not pull out the weed obscuring the view, and I didn’t have a knife on me to cut it away. Instead of removing the obstruction, the Daughter took a weed and tied them down, then found a rock, an adventure in itself, to keep the mess down.

We did relatively little lichen removal on this one, but it needed less work. This headstone was next to another stone I suspect marked the sister of the woman noted here.

The Daughter thought that she might like doing this kind of work for a living, or maybe do it as a hobby to get away from her busy lawyer career. We found it very relaxing on a perfect, sunny November day (67 F, 19.4C), a day before it snowed!

Dad’s grave

My dad wasn’t much on that type of sentimentality.

Visiting the gravesites, beyond the limits of geography, is a very personal preference, I believe. I don’t think I’ve visited my dad’s grave more than two or three times. Of course, when he first died, on this date in 2000, the headstone wasn’t ready.

I know I made at least one trip, maybe two, to the military cemetery 40 miles north of Charlotte, NC, with my mother and at least the sister who lives in North Carolina, and very likely, her daughter.

The last time, I’m sure, was when my mother died in 2011. Both of my sisters and their daughters, my wife and MY daughter all attended the burial. She’s interred next to dad, and the headstone has now been replaced to represent both of them, with information on each side. I’ve actually never seen mom’s side of the headstone, except in photographs.


But my dad wasn’t much on that type of sentimentality. His mom died in the early 1960s, about a decade before he moved from Binghamton, NY to North Carolina. I have no recollection of taking us to visit her grave in the Floral Avenue Cemetery in Johnson City, NY. And I just can’t imagine him going on his own.

Indeed, I didn’t even remember – or more correctly, misremembered – where she was buried until about three years ago, which I wrote about.

Spring Forest Cemetery in Binghamton I went by virtually every single weekday growing up. It’s three or four blocks from the house I grew up in, and even closer to my maternal grandmother’s house, where I went each school day for lunch. we used to cut through the cemetery to play baseball at Ansco field.

My paternal grandfather died in 1980, and he’s buried in Spring Forest, or at least I think so. I doubt my father ever made a trek up to Binghamton to visit the grave.

So I guess I’m trying to make myself feel less guilty – guilty may be overstating it – about not going to what is now my parents’ gravesite. I DO have pictures.

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