This is the latest in a series of essays titled “Man Has Premonition of Own Death.”
Just read a book called “The American Resting Place: Four hundred years of history through our cemeteries,” written by Marilyn Yalom with photos by Reid S. Yalom. It got me thinking about my two favorite cemeteries.
One is Sleepy Hollow in Tarrytown, New York, near the Tappan Zee, where Washington Irving’s famous “Legend” takes place and the writer himself is buried. The other is Oakland in my old hometown of Yonkers, New York, where my grandparents are buried as well as various others in the Nash and Crooks families (on my mother’s side).
The book also got me thinking about Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, where my father and his parents, my Italian grandparents, occupy shelves in sprawling, chapel-like mausoleum with stained glass windows and creepy piped-in music.
Harold Arlen, who wrote “Over the Rainbow”
Novelist James Baldwin
Composer Bella Bartok
Actor Yul Brynner (cremated at Ferncliff)
Tom Carvel, founder of Carvel Ice Cream (which started, of course, in Yonkers).
Actress Joan Crawford
DJ and “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Alan Freed
Muppets creator Jim Henson
Blues singer Alberta Hunter
Composer Jerome Kern
Black radical activist Malcolm X
John Lennon (cremated at Ferncliff).
Jazz great Thelonius Monk
Christopher Reeve (cremated at Ferncliff).
“Sherlock Holmes’’ actor Basil Rathbone.
Athlete, singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson.
Broadway restaurateur “Toots” Shor
Literary critic Lionel Trilling
Ed Sullivan (yes, of the “Ed Sullivan Show”)
My father detested John Lennon and Malcolm X. He would have dismissed Monk’s music as “noise.” But he would have been thrilled to share a graveyard with Basil Rathbone – he loved those old “Sherlock Holmes” movies with Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as loyal Watson, and one of my good memories of my father is watching television with him on rainy weekends when Yankees games got canceled and the local station would show old Sherlock Homes, Charlie Chan and Bowery Boys movies.
Here’s a link to the Ferncliff Cemetery’s creepy Web site: www.ferncliff.com