Monday, April 30, 2012

Gay Headstones?

Me standing over my two cemetery plots at Northwood Cemetery


As regular followers of this blog know, I am a long time member of FAG. For those of you who don't know what FAG is, it is Find a Grave.  I am a Find a Grave volunteer.  I take pictures of gravestones and post them to the Find a Grave website.

I am now at the point in my life where I am going to choose my own headstone.  However, I have a dilemma.  Do I order one of those dual headstones that so many married couples have?



In my cemeteries wanderings I have seen literally thousands of these "married" headstones.  I have wondered, what kind of headstones do gay couples have after they die?  Of course back "then" there were no gay couples.  "Back then", gay couples stayed in the closet, even in the cemetery.

Well, I think it is time for all of use to come out, even in the cemetery. Sure, one has to take into consideration that a headstone with two male names on it would be a prime object of cemetery vandalism.  Yes Virginia, gays are fair game for bashing even in the cemetery.

So it was with great interest that I came across this headstone this morning as I was posting my latest cemetery information to FAG.


So here we go folks.  I discovered this dual headstone of two men, approximately the same age and obviously not brothers.  I researched these names on Ancestry.com and discovered that Lester Webb was listed as "single" on the 1940 U.S.Census. He lived in his sister's house with her husband and family.  Could Lester be the gay uncle?  Ah ha!

The only information I could find on Joseph Hayward was that he lived in Sussex County, Delaware.  I could find no U.S. census information. I could find no wife.  I could find no family for Joseph Hayward.  Could it be that Joseph was Lester's "friend?"

Just this weekend, as Bill and I were looking for two FAG requests at the Odd Fellows' Cemetery in Milton, we discussed what type of headstone I should choose.

After my father's death in August of 2000 I purchased two cemetery plots at the Northwood Cemetery on a hill overlooking Downingtown, Pennsylvania.  At that time I was not ready to purchase a headstone for Bill or myself.  Bill always said he wanted one of those metal military plaques on his grave.  We both like those plaques and I had even briefly consider having one of those myself.  However, I have since decided that I want a more substantial headstone.  I am not one of those people who decided that I want no trace of myself when I leave this earth.  I want a remembrance for which I do not apologize.  



I like these military grave markers but I think I have decided what I'm going to do.  We're going to go the way of Joseph and Lester and have a dual headstone.  

What do you think?

My marker at Northwood Cemetery

39 comments:

  1. My grandfather served in the Army during WWII. When he died, they posed the question of his military plaque. My grandfather was very proud of his service and my grandmother decided that she wanted them to have a dual headstone AND his military plaque. So, she the traditional stone placed at the head of the plots and his military plaque was placed at his feet. What a way for you guys to show the world that gays can show a testament to their love and that they had BOTH served in the military. Just a thought.

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    1. Russ,

      I see a lot of headstones that are both military and granite with the wife on it. Bill and I may do both too. Both of us are very proud of our military service.

      Ron

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  2. anne marie in philly7:20 PM

    interesting; I have never come across a headstone like lester and joseph's. flaunt it, baby, flaunt it!

    smooches to bill!

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    1. Anne Marie,

      That's the first time I came across that kind of headstone too! I'll relay your good wishes to Bill. He's sick right now. I hope he gets better soon.

      Ron

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  3. I don't recall you blogging about final preparations, but I may have skipped that. For myself, I want to be cremated . My 1st choice is to donate my body to science by my family (parents and sister) can't stand that idea but will accept cremation. Should I ever have a husband, I still wouldn't want to be buried. As for the ashes, keep them or spread them I have no preference.

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    1. Sean

      Way back when, before I started roaming cemeteries I wanted to be cremated also. However, since then I have discovered the importance of leaving a marker of the time I was on this earth. Of course this is my personal feeling and I don't put it on anyone else. I feel everyone should do what they feel most comfortable with. Donate my body to science? No way ever. I've been used enough in my life. I don't need that final insult.

      Ron

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  4. Ron,

    I hope Bill is feeling better soon, especially with you going on about your tombstones. You could be cremated and still have a plot and stone.

    Lar

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    1. Lar,

      At one time I wanted to be cremated but since I found out that the ashes are mixed with everyone else's, cremation has lost it's appeal to me. I would rather my bones be buried in a specific spot instead of my asked mixed with everyone else. There isn't even a guarantee that one's body will be buried in a specified grave. The dead cannot speak for themselves.

      Ron

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  5. Ron,

    By the way, speaking of end of life, things are only getting worse here for me. That's why you haven't seen me posting anywhere.

    Lar

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    1. Lar,

      I'll call you tomorrow.

      Ron

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  6. Ron, I was going to comment but it got so long I made it a post on my blog instead. Thanks for the inspiration. Max

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    1. Max,

      I'll have to check your blog!

      Ron

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  7. It cost extra, don't know how much since my parents paid for it, but my Sister's ashes are her own and not mixed with anyone's. Still, they had her urn buried which was my Dad's choice and my Mom went along with it. So see, it can happen. Keep researching that method.
    And as I told you once before, toss me in a ditch somewhere and let the earth reclaim me.
    m.

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    1. Mark,

      I don't believe crematoriums, not for a second.

      Toss you in a ditch? NO MARK! You need to leave one of those massive memorials with your photo on it. :)

      Ron

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  8. I think that we are going to go with natural burial. I'd like to be put somewhere without a marker and left to blend back into an environment, just part of nature once again.

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    1. Scott,

      I used to feel this way but I changed once I found the value of leaving something for my descendants. Once we're gone, it doesn't matter to us but our memory matters to our family. That's the way I see it now.

      Ron

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  9. Anonymous4:31 PM

    Hi Ron, Maybe the two guys were brothers with different last names. I wouldn't see that headstone and assume they are gay at all. Lynne

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    1. Lynne,

      Of course I don't know that they were gay but I do know that they weren't brothers. Joseph "Haywood" was born in Lithuania according to U. S. Census records on Ancestry.com. His last name "Hayward" was Anglicized from "Hallaydal". I do think it is interesting that two men with different last names are on the same headstone. I think I will order headstones like that for Bill. Maybe someone fifty years down the road will look at our dual headstone and think "Yeah, they were probably brothers."
      Ron

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  10. Ron - I think a dual headstone is a great idea. It shows your love for always.

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    1. Thank you Melissa, my thoughts exactly. :)

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  11. Gay headstones: I hadn't thought of it until now. This makes sense - why not?
    I want to be cremated, so no headstone for me, gay or otherwise.

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    1. Not me Dr. Spo. I want a headstone. I will not go quietly into that good night. I want folks who are wandering through Northwood Cemetery in the future to stop and look at my headstone and say "So this is where Ron ended up." That's what I say when I look at my friends and relatives headstones. To me headstones are honoring the memory of the deceased, and why not? But then, I say to each his own. If you prefer cremation and ashes scattered to the wind, that is just fine.

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    2. You can have both. My husband was cremated but he wanted to be buried next to his parents in a plot that he inherited. The cemetery will put 2 urns in one grave so someday my ashes may be next to his. I am now looking for ideas about headstones.

      Delete
  12. Holly7:33 PM

    Do it, do it, do it! As time goes on, same-sex names on a headstone won't even be worthy of remark. Vandalism is always a problem yet I suspect that most hoodlums that do such stuff don't bother to read names or single out any one grave, it's just convenience and headstones that are easy to tip over. Get a big one that will give them a hernia just pushing on it.

    My inlaws are buried in a memorial park that only allows plaques and prohibits plantings, containers etc etc, the idea being that a park or garden is so much nicer than a cemetery I guess. I never had a problem with cemeteries, some of my fondest childhood memories are of my family biking to a nearby old, old cemetery and wandering around reading inscriptions, which used to be quite something, seeing how many children died so young and mom explaining to me about vaccinations and epidemics. Cemeteries never held any fears for me, still don't. And I don't want any plaque. I want a honkin' big headstone that says Beloved Daughter, Loving Wife, Excellent Mother, Terrific Belly Dancer, Awesome Massage Practitioner. Whatever, put it all on there.

    I used to think cremation was the way to go. When my mother died, cremation was really our only option (she died on vacation in AK, we did not have the $7000 to bring her body home) and I didn't like it. If it had been her choice beforehand I would have honored that, but all my experience with death was with the standard funeral/memorial service and it was very hard to not have a funeral, to not see her one more time, to have a headstone or something concrete to still honor her. I know there are ways to do it, but I hate not having a 'place' if that makes sense. There weren't any of the comforting grieving processes that we are accustomed to. It still feels incomplete. Our best friend donated his body to science and while we all knew it beforehand, it was rough with our last view of him still in the ER bed. It's all just a matter of customs but those customs have a certain sense and routine about them. So my husband knows, inexpensive casket but a grand ol' Celebration of Life service, with everyone in bright colors, lots of gorgeous flowers, fun pictures of me, good music and good food after. Oh yeah, and that honkin' big headstone.

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    1. Holly,

      Welcome to my blog! You express my sentiments exactly, I too want a "big honking headstone." Well, maybe not that big but one that will let everyone know I was here on this planet for a few years. I too had planned to be cremated until I discovered first hand how important our custom in honoring our deceased loved ones with the ritual of a funeral and a final resting place. I don't criticize anyone who prefers cremation or donating their body to science but for me, I prefer not not have my remains cremated and dumped somewhere in the trash. I definitely want a memorial left behind honoring my years on this earth. For that I make no apologies. In fact I'm going to make my own memorial DVD to be played at my funeral service, so there. :)

      Thanks again for your comments Holly. Much appreciated and on the mark.

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    2. Holly1:24 PM

      You got me thinking more about this. Our best friend died very suddenly 2 years ago of a pulmonary embolism. He'd already consented to donate his body and his wife honored that. It was *very* hard for everyone, my husband happened to read an article about body donation and he said "Omg. Sometimes they leave them outside to rot and study decomposition. They blow them up. They cut them up with chainsaws."

      Now I'm not stupid. I know they have found out things that have saved lives and I know what happens to buried bodies. But somehow, the thought of that wonderful man's hands - the hands that served us drinks and created beautiful works of art of wood, the arms that hugged me in greeting and farewell, that lovely face, those legs that ran every day with his beloved dogs, the back that leaned just so when he was riding his motorcycle, the body that grew from his mother's body - being left outside to rot or being cut apart and sent who knows here, is hard to deal with. Never mind the fact that some bodies are being sold (making a profit off our friend's body??) To many it's just 'the shell' but his hands, his smile, his physical grace, were all a part of him too.

      You can tell me if I'm driving you crazy by posting here :)

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    3. Holly,

      This is one reason why I would never donate my body to science. Oh sure, donating one's body to science sounds very altruistic and all that but the reality is quite different as you so clearly stated in your comment. The way I look at it, so much has already been taken from me during my life, leave me alone during my death. Why take one last "grab?" No, it isn't going to happen.

      Everybody to their own choice but for me, I prefer a traditional burial and decomposition in the ground.

      No Holly, you're not driving me crazy by your comments. :) Keep 'em coming!

      Ron

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  13. Thanks for the welcome! I'm a born-and-raised Delawarean and while I love reading about other places, it's nice to have a blog located here in DE. I didn't realize how much I'd posted in my reply until I came back to reread it now. Good gravy, sorry for the interruption folks!

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    1. Holly,
      I love writing my blog!
      Ron

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  14. Anonymous5:33 PM

    Hello- came across this blog when looking into headstones for same sex couples, get information and point of view. My partner and I will also be buried and I would love to have a dual stone however the cemetary is in a very rural part of town- but do I care ? :-)

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    1. I found my for certain same sex headstone. It was of a former friend and neighbor of mine. Reading your comment reminded me that I wanted to do a post about my "discovery." I want a dual headstone but my partner (spouse, husband) doesn't. He is of the old school of thought . But I think as you do, "do I care?" what other think once I am dead? No, I don't.

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  15. Anonymous2:14 PM

    I recently found an old gravestone for two men. The inscriptions for each were on opposite sides of a square monument. On the third side, there is an inscription in Italian, "[illegible] rari amici e compagni." I am unsure of the first word, but the rest is translated, "rare friends and companions." They have different last names and died one week apart, in 1905. I have seen stones for two men before in that same cemetery--men who died in the same coal mine disaster, in 1909. Those, however, had wives noted on the gravestone. The 1905 gravestone has no similar explanation for it. The Find A Grave memorials are # 111643704 and # 111644193

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    1. Anonymous,
      Interesting. Thanks for sharing.
      Ron

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  16. very nice and different post. thanks for sharing.

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    1. Quite welcome Jason.
      Ron

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  17. Anonymous8:51 PM

    My wife died in 2003 and I put up a joint and married dual stone. Since then I have finally put my being right and have transitioned from male to female. I then had my side of our stone replaced with my new female name on the stone. The stone now has a female name and leaves no doubt that each side is female and then says in between each stone "Married 1958" The stone is in the same cemetery as my parents and a granddaughter and is located in Southern Illinois. It has been accepted by the people of the small town and there has been no negative comment. A place of burial should be a place of respect. I am a Vetran and I have posted as anonymous because I don't wish to attract unwanted attention to our site.

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    1. Anonymous,
      Thank you for your comment. It is encouraging to know that the people in your small town haven't reacted negatively to the change in your memorial headstone.
      Ron

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  18. Anonymous3:14 PM

    A family of Rabbis that i am related to have had a Quadruple Headstone with 3 men and 1 women buried in front of it. They were all related to eachother, as in son, son Mother, Father on the headstone.

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    1. Anonymous,
      Good to hear that their is diversity in the cemetery.
      Ron

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