Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Perfect Tribute

The Perfect Tribute

Written by John Jenkins of Gravestones HQ and Peter Purr of Memorials of Distinction

A memorial headstone can be a fitting tribute to the dearly departed; the chance to pay tribute to their achievements, describe the void they will leave or simply capture the very essence of their being.

Some people think about their memorial headstone in advance and not only decide the type they want, but also the inscription.

Over the years, tributes have been collected around the world, which give eternal life to those who we have unfortunately lost. The preservation of these everlasting memorials is one of the things that makes us human, and preserves our instinct to give meaning to the lives of those loved ones we have lost along the way.

Friends, loved ones and - in the case of famous people – fans and admirers often visit memorials to pay their respects. Here are 10 famous memorial headstones from around the world which still draw attention.

1) Frank Sinatra
Ol' Blue Eyes, born in New Jersey in 1915 was a true legend and was considered by many to be one of the greatest singers of the 20th century. Bursting onto the scene in 1935, he later became a part of the infamous Rat Pack with fellow crooners such as Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Frank Sinatra later went on to establish a successful acting career but for many, he will always be remembered for the rousing New York, New York, which was adopted as the unofficial anthem of the city.

The singer's memorial headstone in Cathedral City, California is marked by two USA flags and bears his name, the years of his birth and death, along with the tribute 'beloved husband and father'. However, in a fitting tribute to the singer's cheeky and upbeat sense of humour, it also bears the slogan 'The best is yet to come'.

2) Jane Austen
One of England's most famous female writers from the Georgian period, Jane Austen wrote classics such as Pride and Prejudice which have gone on to enjoy success on the silver screen.

Her memorial headstone doesn't mention her illustrious career as a writer; the reason for this is that during her lifetime her novels were published as being written 'By a Lady'. By omitting her achievements, Austen's family preserved her anonymity at the time.

The prose featured on the memorial is however, beautifully fitting for a writer being eloquent and heartfelt. Judge for yourself:

The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temperment
the extraordinary endowments of her mind
obtained the regard of all who knew her and
the warmest love of her intimate connections
Their grief is in proportion to their affection
they know their loss to be irreparable
but in their deepest affliction they are consoled
by a firm though humble hope that her charity,
devotion, faith and purity have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her redeemer

3) Pyotr Tchaikovsky
The composer of some of the most well-known pieces of classical music such as the haunting Swan Lake, Pyotr Tchaikovsky's grave features a striking memorial, complete with bust and angels.

Although Tchaikovsky's death was officially attributed to cholera, some experts have suggested it was an excruciating form of suicide with the composer deliberately opting to drink the infected water. He was laid to rest in Tikhvin Cemetery in the grounds of Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St Petersburg.

4) Mel Blanc
A man that few would recognise on sight his voice was heard all over the world for many decades, Mel Blanc was the creator behind a myriad of voices in both cartoons and radio shows. Perhaps best-known for his work for the Warner Bros, where he brought characters such as Tweety Pie, Woody Woodpecker, Elmer Fudd and of course, the inimitable Bugs Bunny to life.

Blanc's uncanny ability to create totally different voices and also mimic sounds allowed him to enjoy a long and fruitful career, which also saw his creations continue on past his death.

His memorial is situated in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, in the Garden of the Exodus. The simple memorial bears the star of David in reference to his Jewish heritage and signs off with 'That's all Folks', one of Blanc's most famous tag-lines.

5) Jim Morrison
Perhaps one of the most frequently-visited memorials, despite the singer's death occurring more than 40 years ago, the site of his grave is as controversial as was his life.

A bohemian at heart, he had conflicts with the law, famously enjoyed recreational drugs and embraced mysticism. Many of his fans appear to have the same approach to life and a weighty stone block had to be laid over his sealed grave to stop individuals from attempting to dig him up. His memorial is covered with graffiti and has been defaced and artefacts stolen repeatedly. Other misdeameanours from visitors have included drug parties, orgies and devil worshipping rites. As a result, his memorial is now protected by night lighting, cameras and security officers patrolling with dogs.

The Parisian cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried have intimated they may ask for the grave to be moved when the lease expires as a result of the mayhem.

6) John Wayne
One of the most instantly recognisable cowboy film stars from the movies, John Wayne was an unlikely heartthrob.

A true American film icon, John Wayne's grave was left unmarked for almost 20 years. It now features a highly detailed engraving of a man riding a horse amongst the landscape in addition to the inscription:

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.

According to his son, this was not what the actor had asked for, although the above is a quote from an interview he gave to Playboy in 1971. John Wayne had apparently requested 'Feo, Fuerte y Formal' (ugly, strong and dignified) to be written on his memorial. Quite why this didn't happen isn't clear.

7) Bruce and Brandon Lee
A double memorial, and for this reason, even more poignant with father and son interred next to each other in Lake View Cemetery in Seattle.

Bruce Lee was, and arguably still is, the most famous martial arts actor the world has ever seen. An expert in a form of martial arts which emphasises economy of movement, Bruce Lee was one of the fittest men on the planet. Although he died officially of a cerebral oedema following a succession of headaches, speculation remains that it was a martial arts-related death. Medical experts have said that the death was caused by conflicting medication.

His son, Brandon Lee, was also an actor and died whilst he was filming blockbuster movie The Crow, where he was accidentally shot.

The two memorials are different colours and designs, but nestled up against each other bring home the true tragedies of their deaths. Bruce Lee was just 32 when he died, and Brandon was only 28 so perhaps little surprise that there have been persistent rumours about a family curse.

8) Princess Diana
The people's princess as she was often referred to has in death become the Lady of the Lake. Her remains are buried on an island in the centre of the Round Oval Lake on the Althorp family estate, hidden from prying eyes.

The princess died in a much-publicised car crash in France in 1997 but although her memorial can be seen from the water's edge, no visitors are permitted onto the island. This hasn't stopped her memorial from being amongst some of the most visited in the UK.

Her grave is marked by an elaborate urn and a column rising from her burial site. The path which permits access to the island is lined by 36 birch trees, one for each year of the princess' life.

9) Hattie McDaniel
The first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mammy in Gone With the Wind in 1939, Hattie McDaniel's life and death was courted by controversy.

She was stereotyped as a maid or suchlike in the 100 films she made but was widely recognised as having skills which far outstripped the roles she was given. After she won her Academy Award she was not permitted to attend the premiere and was forced to sit on a table by herself during the awards ceremony. She went on to be the first black woman to sing on the radio and have her own TV series, and when she died of breast cancer in 1952 her funeral was attended by more than 3000 people.

Even in death she couldn't escape conflict; she had requested to be buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery but was not permitted to be laid to rest there because of her colour. In 1999, the new owners of the cemetery offered to relocate her but her family declined. A memorial was put up in her honour instead which declares:

Aunt Hattie, you are a credit to your craft, your race and to your family

10) John Belushi
Funnyman John Belushi died in 1989 but his fans still visit his graveside in their droves. The problem continues to cause such an issue for his family that his remains were moved a distance away from his memorial headstone in the cemetery in Martha's Vineyard.

The comic, who died from a drugs overdose, signs off with an unrepentant 'I may be gone, but Rock and Roll lives on', a motto which many over-enthusiastic fans appear to have taken to heart when visiting the sacred spot.

There are almost countless famous memorial headstones from around the world that could have been included in this list. The above 10 are just a snapshot of the humorous, poignant and unusual memorial headstones that have been erected to pay tribute to those who are no longer here.

Image credits: Nikoretro and lcm1863

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