A Cemetery Mystery

Rendville Cemtery 04-18-2015I have to head back to Cape on Sunday morning, so Curator Jessica wanted to do one last ramble around SE Ohio on Saturday. We found some neat stuff I’ll share later, but this tale shows the value of knocking on doors.

We wanted to see if anything was left of a street scene I had shot in the late 1960s in Rendville, Ohio. It was a small town that was predominately black and produced the first black mayor in Ohio, and one of the first black union organizers.

At the top of a hill overlooking the town was a cemetery. What struck us right off was that a wide path had been mowed to a circle in the middle of the graveyard. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

It gets even more curious

Rendville Cemtery 04-18-2015In the top of the circle was a small black fence surrounding a freshly-planted tree. A tree so freshly-planted that the ground was still wet where it had been watered.

Next to the fence was a metal post with an upside-down bottle on it. Glued or somehow affixed to it was a small bowl, and in it was a glass with water in it and some fresh flowers. On the ground was a lei made of orchids. Miz Jessica pointed out that they wilt quickly, so they had to have been left recently.

Knock on a door

I said, “There’s a house across the street. Why don’t you go over, knock on the door and ask if they know what this is all about?”

She demurred, so I said I’d do it with her in tow.

Steve, the man who answered the door, said he didn’t live there. He just borrows the house for two weeks a year to go turkey hunting, and he didn’t know what was going on, but we had made him curious.

Scratching our collective heads

We all went back to the circle, walked around a bit tossing out theories, and admitted we were stumped.

“I know the mayor,” Steve said. “I’ll give him a call. If you give me your phone number, I’ll ask him, then let you know.”

I never expected to hear from Steve again, but we were half-way back to Athens after a great dinner in Somerset (just down from a big statue of Civil War General Phillip Sheridan) when my phone rang from an unknown number.

Mother of the town clerk

It was Steve. He said the mother of the town clerk had died and they held the ceremony in the circle and planted the tree in her honor. She must have been cremated because there was very little earth disturbed. So little, in fact, that I thought it might have been excess from when they dug the hole for the tree.

A minute or two after we hung up, my phone rang with Steve’s number showing. I heard him telling the story of the funeral to someone in the background. Evidently he had butt-dialed me.

“We all win”

“We all win,” I told Miz Jessica. “We got our question answered, and he can dine out for a week telling his buddies about this crazy couple who banged on his door with something that sounded like it was out of the Twilight Zone.”

History is all about HIS story and HER story, and I love knocking on doors to capture snippets of history.


10 Replies to “A Cemetery Mystery”

  1. Ken,
    This is a very interesting story. Your blog is always interesting to me. When you return to Cape Girardeau you must go by and see what has happened to Kage School. The new owners live next door and I think it is amazing what they have done to the school to keep it from going away. Incidentally, I’m not receiving comments from others on your posts, and I haven’t for several days.

    1. Larry, I met with the owner when I was here last fall and just haven’t posted some interesting things the workers discovered when doing the renovation.

      I’ll do an update.

      Comments have been a bit slow lately because, unfortunately, folks are commenting on Facebook instead of here. I say “unfortunately,” because FB comments don’t stick around like ones here.

      Here’s a quirk that I can’t explain. If you have visited a page, then you won’t see any updates or later comments unless you refresh your browser. The easiest way to do that on a PC is to press Ctrl-F5.

  2. Hi. You must have visited Rendville Cemetary just a few hours after we’d held a tree planting ceremony for my mother’s ashes. Since we spent a good deal of our lives in Hawaii, we had ordered many fresh flower leis for the event, two of which we left behind. An artist friend, Cindy Yeager, asked if she could make a small birdbath to sit there until we had a marker stone in place. Your post made my sister and I smile as almost no one goes back up there to the cemetery.

  3. This is my Mom. I am the former town clerk. Mom would have loved this article and the ‘mystery’! I will share it with my family!

  4. Hello, I am the mayor and hunting friend with Steve at the “hunting cabin”. I informed him what had taken place in the Rendville Cemetery. It was great to have been a part of this story.

  5. Our Mom fell in love with Rendville cemetery and from first meeting said that is where she wanted to be with a tree planted and a marker. She is up there just giddy at the mystery now. Rest in peace Mommy.

  6. What a wonderful story! I was there at the tree planting ceremony. So much love there for this extraordinary woman. I love the phrase “We all win”. Perfect. I’m sure she is smiling right now…

  7. How very interesting. How it must bring so many smiles to all involved . I love the expression ‘ we all win ‘ ..

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