Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - What Do You Do with a "Used" Tombstone?

A new cemetery (Forest Lawn) was opening adjacent to Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia, and I decided to  purchase six burial spaces. In 1980, when my Dad (Raymond Mitchell THOMAS, Jr.) died unexpectedly, arrangements were made to bury him in Forest Lawn Cementery. Eight years later, my grandmother (Eddye Mae LOYD SWANN) died. While making arrangements for her funeral, we learned that the LOYD-SWANN lot in historic Bonaventure Cemetery contained more spaces than we thought. Once my Mom (Eddye Frances SWANN THOMAS) received this information, she was determined to relocate my Dad's remains to her family's lot. Her parents and grandparents are buried there as well as her brother and uncle. 
The "Unwanted Tombstone"
The relocation happened sometime during the late 1990s. Mom did not want to use the old marker because marker's design did not match the current markers on the LOYD-SWANN lot. 

Loyd-Swann Lot
This created a real dilemma--what do you do with a "used" marker!" My brother, Ray (Raymond Mitchell THOMAS III) stored it in his garage until we could make a decision. We forgot about it until early 2002, when Ray asked, "What are we going to do with this old marker that's still in my garage?" I told him we couldn't just throw it away. Then we had a brainstorm! The gravesite of my grandparents' (Raymond Mitchell THOMAS, Sr. and Kathryne "Katie" Elizabeth AUSTIN), in Hillcrest Abbey East Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia, was minus a tombstone.

Ray and I visited the monument company and asked if the plates on the old marker could be replaced. The answer was yes, but the cost was just a few hundred dollars under the purchase cost of a new marker. We were told it would be necessary to recast the bronze. We then explored the cost of two new name plates. Ray decided he could sand the plates off the bronze marker and new plates could be attached. The representative warned that it may destroy the marker. Since the marker was of no value as it was, we decided there was nothing to lose by trying. The new plates were only a fraction of the cost of a new marker. In 2002, the "repurposed" marker was installed and it now marks my grandparents' graves.
The "Repurposed" Tombstone with close-up photos of the new plates
I have attempted to properly document the relocation of my Dad's remains from one cemetery to another, but can you imagine the headache some poor genealogist might have one day! My Dad's obituary clearly states he was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia. He was, but he didn't stay. He now rests happily in Bonaventure Cemetery next to my Mom and her parents whom he loved dearly. 

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