gv graveyard 500

HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (4/23/13) – You thought I was dead didn’t ya? Fooled ya. I was just trying to confuse ole Steve Ray before his guest presentation at the Hopkins County Genealogy Society meeting at the old L&N Depot there behind City Hall.

Steve’s is discussing famous or noteworthy people or graves in a 50 mile radius of Hopkins County. Figured I’d get him searching for mine before his lecture. Sort of a left over rotten egg hunt in actuality. I ain't near famous or noteworthy but I do have my grave already. Plan ahead momma said. So while I might not know where I’m going to be tomorrow I can all but guarantee ya where I’ll be in 50 years or so, give a take a decade or so.
We folks are strange about death. Steve could tell you that. He’s been a mortician. I’m not all that crazy about picking thru our graveyards around the county here. There’s a few neat stones, remembrances here and there in some of our dead ones new homes or old for the ones been buried for a long time I guess, but I admit when I go out of the United States I do tend to try and find the graveyards.
I was on a cruise and exploring Old San Juan and took a wrong turn and before I knew it I was walking straight for the graveyard. I thought I was headed toward the ocean. Actually I was, because the graveyard was right alongside the ocean. All the tombs were above ground. It was at dusk and one of the concrete covers was slightly ajar, so I made a quick decision to turn around and head back in the direction of my ship on the other side of the island. But seeing all those white boxes neatly in a row with white tombstones all in a row was a fascinating picture in my mind so the next island we decked out, first thing I did was go hunting the graveyard. This was in Cozumel. About 5 blocks off the shopping strip of the port I found a breathtaking graveyard. It was like entering a fairy tale children’s book. Again all the buried were above ground, to keep them from floating out with the tide, but what was different here was most were built in to little shacks or buildings straight out of the Little Red Riding Hood.
There were concrete ones naturally, but also brick, wood and I swear a couple looked like straw!
They were painted bright and cheerful. It was the most amazing contrast to the Old San Juan graveyard, where all were white and in a row, perfect rows of dead people. Not in Cozumel. It was indicative to me of the bright and color filled world of Mexico carried right over to the cemeteries. And the aspect I most liked was that outside these little death huts if you will were cigarette butts, beer cans, long burnt out candles, stuff animals, family photos and maybe even a stuffed dearly departed cat or dog. Seriously.
At first I was confused, but then I realized the dead wasn’t mourned and discarded as we seem to do in the United States, here they celebrated and visited their dead in party form and fashion. No time for tears unless they are from laughter for our neighbors to the south. I found that very comfortable. And I also decided that if our cemeteries took that form, I’d find myself visiting my deceased relatives a lot more often. I mean take my Aunt Mary for instance. I used to love going to her house and sitting in her kitchen eating sugar cookies off special colorful paper plates she’d buy just for our cookie time together.
She had the most awesome bright red painted ceiling in her kitchen. Rest of the house was a dull boring white. Not the kitchen. That was here room. And she wanted to be happy in it… so bright red ceiling with white walls. That was the life and love of that home. It’s a shame her gravesite isn’t built in a lil room with a red roof over it. She’d feel much more at home and I know at least once a week I’d be taking paper plates and sugar cookies to her grave and telling her what I learned in school, well what I’ve learned in life this week. She’d enjoy hearing those stories. She’d feel a part of this world. I guess she sees it but there’s nothing like hearing it first hand is there? Dead or not.
I guess I better clarify that. She was my great Aunt Mary. Or GREAT Aunt Mary. Those genealogy people always get after me if I don’t clarify and just go with nicknames. Every one called her Aunt Mary, that’s who she was, so that’s what everyone called her in the family.
Aunt Mary’s grave won’t be on Mr. Ray’s discussion. But I guarantee he’ll have some interesting folks and tales to share and bring to life some of the drab tombstones we drive by and hardly give a thought to it seems.
If you want to join us come down to the depot around 6:45ish and pull up a chair there by the railroad and listen in to Steve. Doors open. Just not the caskets.
Richard Cunningham is a Hopkins County native and a Kentucky Arts Council Community Scholar. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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