Friday, December 30, 2011

The Gravestone

My mother was a young child when her grandfather died in 1945.  Mom had one memory of him.  She was trying to get across the living room and he sat in his chair and spit into the spittoon across the way from him.  Mom had cross his path to get to the other side – when she made the attempt, she got hit.  Not the most pleasant memory for a child of her grandfather.  A few years later, her own father was killed in a hunting accident.  Her mother and grandmother would make trips down to the cemetery to take flowers after his death on Memorial Day.  It really bothered them that my grandfather’s father had no gravestone and they decided to do something about it!  Grandma Cappy was fond of her ex father-in-law and didn’t like that none of his living children had put a gravestone on his grave.

In the spring of 1949, Grandma Cappy and Mom Friddle (Great Grandma Sophie) decided that they would make a gravestone.  They made a small form and poured concrete into the form.  Grandma Cappy then carefully wrote the name “John L. Tannahill” and his birth and death years.  They then left the concrete to cure.  That stone sat outside near the shed…I’m sure the people they employed as berry pickers were a little creeped out to see a gravestone and probably wondered if someone was actually buried there.  Memorial Day approached and they decided that it was time to place the stone.

Both of these women were under 5 feet in height and very petite.  However, they didn’t let that stop them.  Somehow they wrestled that stone into the back of the car.  When it was time to go down to the cemetery, Mom piled into the car as instructed and the flowers and several garden tools were added.  Mom found out in a short time, what those tools were to be used for.
The homemade gravestone made by my grandmother and great grandmother in 1949.
Grandma Cappy and Mom Friddle pulled up to the appropriate location and got out a shovel to start digging the area out to place the stone.  Mom’s eight year old mind was horrified.  What if someone saw them and thought they were grave robbers.  She got down on the floor of the car so no one would see her and think that she was involved.  Soon enough, the stone was wrestled out of the car and put in place – Grandpa Tannahill finally had a gravestone.

The new gravestone - placed around 2000.
As the years passed, it was obvious that the stone was deteriorating.  Mom talked about it with her cousin and they decided that they would purchase a new stone.  They talked to some of their other Tannahill cousins and pooled some money together and placed a new stone on the grave.  They did what their parents didn’t do…put a gravestone on their grandfather’s grave.  So when you go down to the cemetery today, that new stone is in place and the old one is now just a dim memory.  There are only a few of us who know the story of the Grandma Cappy and Mom Friddle making that stone and putting it in place.  It must have been quite a sight to see those two small women determinedly dragging that stone out of the trunk of the car and putting it in place.  Mom never saw them – she was still hiding!

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