Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn A Landscape of Lives - Page 7

A cenotaph , from the Greek kenos ( empty ) + aphos ( tomb ), is a memorial honoring someone whose remains are missing or located elsewhere . Mount Auburn Cemetery has several well-known cenotaphs , such as the bronze plaque honoring Col . Robert Gould Shaw on his family ’ s monument near Bigelow Chapel and the memorial to Margaret Fuller on Pyrola Path . There are also group tributes , such as those commemorating the First Corps of Cadets and the U . S . Exploring Expedition .
Other less-famous cenotaphs are scattered throughout the Cemetery , but they can be hard to locate . Unlike burials and cremations , such memorials are not recorded in any central ledger or database , though they may be mentioned on the old “ lot cards ” faithfully kept in the Cemetery archives . How is one to find memorials to those lost at sea or buried at a distant battlefield ? Research in the archives can often turn up an answer .
When faced with such requests , as a volunteer research docent I first look for an immediate relative who might be interred at Mount Auburn . A visit to the family lot may turn up the name of the absent decedent . The real challenge comes when the names of family members are only partly known , or are spelled differently , or were changed by marriage .
A researcher from Vermont , Tisa Rennau , asked the Cemetery for help in resolving conflicting information about an artist named Martha “ Molly ” Neill Upton . Upton was a pioneering quilt artist who jumped to her death from the Golden Gate Bridge in 1977 , at the age of 23 . Though the artist ’ s body was never recovered , Rennau had learned from Upton ’ s mother that “ a commemorative stone was placed where the grandparents are buried ” at Mount Auburn Cemetery .
I found no mention of Molly Upton in Cemetery records but thought perhaps there was a cenotaph . I found that Molly ’ s father , Gordon J . Upton , who died in 2007 , was buried in the Allen family lot on Coral Path . (“ Allen ” was Molly ’ s mother ’ s maiden name .)
Visiting the lot late on a dim fall afternoon , I couldn ’ t find the name “ Upton ” on any of the memorials . The following morning , however , I discovered Molly ’ s name inscribed across the back of the Allen family monument . Tisa Rennau was able to finish her research on Molly Upton , which she subsequently posted on Wikipedia .
Mount Auburn Cemetery Research Docent , Steve Pinkerton discusses commemoration in the landscape .
In another case , journalist Mark Casey sought the Cemetery ’ s help in finding a cenotaph memorializing Staff Sgt . Richard Hoover Treat . Treat was one of six U . S . Army airmen who perished in a B-26 training flight on November 16 , 1942 , when the bomber disappeared into the Gulf of Mexico . Though Treat ’ s body was never recovered , wreckage of the plane was found in the waters off Sanibel Island , Florida , in 2008 . Casey , who is writing a book about the plane ’ s disappearance and rediscovery , wanted to contact the family of Sgt . Treat , to share news of the find and learn more about the lost airman .
It was known that Treat ’ s mother had placed cenotaphs in his honor at Waterside Cemetery in Marblehead and at Mount Auburn . And while the Cemetery does not divulge family information to third parties , it sometimes acts as a go-between .
The first step was to find Richard ’ s cenotaph . Casey provided the names of Treat ’ s mother and stepfather . While I found no mention of Florence Wilhelmina Hoover Treat Fagan in Cemetery interment records , I did find her second husband , John Joseph Fagan , who was buried in the Randall family lot in 1960 . Visiting the lot , I was pleased to find Richard Treat ’ s flush , military grave marker .
Cemetery correspondence showed that Richard ’ s mother inherited the lot from her aunt in April 1944 and installed the memorial to her lost son the following November . It also documented a chain of ownership leading to the current lot representative , but as the names of successors changed with each link , their relationships to Richard Treat were hard to decipher . I turned next to Waterside Cemetery , site of the second cenotaph , where I found the burials of Florence Hoover Seifert — Richard ’ s mother had married a third time — and her two married daughters , Richard ’ s sisters . Their names matched those found in the correspondence folder .
Florence had left the family lot at Mount Auburn Cemetery to her daughters when she died in 1966 . Responsibility for the lot has since been assumed by one of her granddaughters , Richard ’ s niece Sharon Burgard . I forwarded a copy of Casey ’ s request to Burgard , and soon learned that they had made contact . Burgard kindly furnished a photo of Richard for this article : “ I am so glad I was able to keep this after my mother passed away and I found it along with her things . My grandmother was devastated when he was lost and missing .”
2017 Volume 1 | 5