Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis.

Cemeteries are like Brussels sprouts. I acquired a taste for both of them later in life.

When I was a kid, and even into my early adulthood, cemeteries were a place that you had to go … not a place you willingly visited. I’m not sure when or why I decided it would be a good idea to wander around one and take photos, but whatever the reason, I’m glad it happened.

The main entrance to Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.

One of the many gigantic magnolia trees in Elmwood Cemetery.

I’ve become so enamored of cemeteries that they’re now a regular part of our itinerary whenever my boyfriend Mark and I travel anywhere. Ever the understanding travel companion, he knows that if we unexpectedly come upon a cemetery in our travels, he’ll pull over without me even having to ask.

On our most recent road trip, he even did the research and found the beautiful Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. It was a historic treasure, and a great way to start off a full day’s worth of sightseeing in the Home of the Blues. I reciprocated with an impromptu visit to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in my hometown of St. Louis.

Elmwood Cemetery

This headstone stood lonely in a large field at Elmwood Cemetery.

A mother's grief chiseled in stone at Elmwood Cemetery.

Elmwood Cemetery.
A hero's grave at Elmwood Cemetery.

Mark normally wanders around the cemeteries with me, but sometimes he sits in the car and patiently waits as I walk up and down the rows of markers, memorials and mausoleums.

I’m intrigued with the stories behind these headstones. Some inscriptions leave you scratching your head and wondering what the rest of the story is, but some say so much in just a few words and a couple of dates.

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

The view from Jefferson Barracks. You can see the Mississippi between the trees, and downtown St. Louis
is in the distance. If you look closely, you can see one leg of the Gateway Arch just to the left of the
tree in the center.

Jefferson Barracks.

Jefferson Barracks.

Jefferson Barracks.

One of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever visited is also one I have personal ties to – Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis is where my father and grandmother are buried. It’s also where Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs, explorer and expedition leader William Clark, and “The Joy of Cooking” author Irma Rombauer, among other notables, are laid to rest.

Our family plot is quite simple, a grey headstone on a small hillcrest. But if you stand in front of the marker and look down the road about 50 yards, you get quite a view – the mausoleum of Adolphus Busch, co-founder of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. I find it funny how Adolphus and my dad, two German immigrants who came from vastly different economic backgrounds, would end up spending eternity down the street from each other.

William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.

The Mausoleum of Adolphus Busch in Bellefontaine Cemetery.

It’s not the only thing that connects me to ol’ Adolphus, though. We share the same birthday – July 10. He had a son named August. My dad’s name was August.

Adolphus also founded the Lone Star Brewery, built in 1884 in San Antonio. These days you may know the site better as the San Antonio Museum of Art. It’s also where I happened to work from 1998-99, and my office was located in the former stables.

Merely coincidences? I don’t think so. I tend to believe in the fate that brings us all together, in the various degrees of separation that can connect a first-generation American with a beer magnate who’s been dead nearly 100 years. All this – in a blog post that started with talk of cemeteries and Brussels sprouts and ended up with beer.

And to that I say ... cheers.


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