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.