Tombstone Tuesday: A Cemetery Celebration

My husband and daugthers at Gordon, Lucille and John Kurtti's tomb at Gate of Heaven, Hawthorne, NY.

This year, we spent part of Mother’s Day at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY.  That’s where my brother-in-law, Gordon Kurtti is at rest with his grandparents, Lucille and John Kurtti.

It was our daughters, 7 and 10 who made the request to visit.  They never met their uncle Gordon.  They thought since it was his birthday on May 4th and Mother’s Day on the 9th, we ought to spend some time with both their Uncle and grandma Claire.  That meant our double party would have to take place at the cemetery.

Gordon  died in 1987,  years before I met and married his brother, but I’ve always felt as if I knew him.   25 years after his death, he remains a large presence in the Kurtti family. There is always a place for him at every family celebration whether it’s through some physical symbol (like the  plaque below bought for his birthday as a child) or  stories at family gatherings, like the time he was honored at his high school graduation for a mural he painted and showed up wearing overalls and a Panama hat, quintessential Gordon style.  In our home, one of his sketches is a focal point in our living room hanging on the wall.  Upstairs, one of his fashion paintings now resides in our youngest daughter’s bedroom.  Every year on Christmas, we hang ornaments that belonged to him.  A gifted artist, his creations are still sprinkling beauty in our lives.

At the cemetery, my husband let our daughters pick out something to bring to their uncle’s grave and instead of the more traditional flowers, they choose balloons and a happy birthday marker. They ran with excitement through the rows of tombstones looking for the Kurtti grave.  I was nervous that the girls were having a little bit too much fun at the cemetery, but my mother-in-law was delighted at their excitement.

“I’m so happy they brought balloons,” Claire said just as I was worrying over this choice of remembrance for her deceased son, the fifth of her seven children.  “They’re good for a young person. Flowers can seem so somber.”

But there was nothing somber about that visit to the cemetery.  The girls found rocks for all of us to leave on the grave.  Grandma Claire shared a few stories about fun times with Gordon and explained how everyone had wrongly believed that his birthday was on the 5th like it says on his tombstone, but it was really the 4th. Before we left, we sent Gordon prayers and our daughters led us in a little happy birthday conga line around my brother-in-law’s grave.  The cemetery police never showed up to bust us for having too good a time. Both his mom and brother agreed, Gordon would have liked their dance.  I’m only sorry neither my daughters nor I got to dance with him in person.

I hope you all enjoyed Mother’s Day as much as we did.

Do you have any special traditions for keeping the memory of your deceased ancestors alive in family celebrations?

40 year-old "happy birthday" plaque bought for Gordon Kurtti and used to commemorate Kurtti children's birthdays ever since.



Filed under ancestry, family history, geneology, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Tombstone Tuesday: A Cemetery Celebration

  1. Deb

    I love it. I think there should be more laughter in cemeteries. When my grandmother was still alive and my parents would take her to “visit” my Pop-Pop, she’d stare at the double headstone that would one day bear her name and growl. She had wanted to put her name and birthdate on it at the same time they had it engraved for my grandfather. She would have saved $75. My aunt refused and said “I don’t want to visit daddy with you standing next to me and see your name on a gravestone.” But man, did it rile my Gramom. “You all are meshuggenah!!” she’d say, shaking her fist. She was a thrifty one.

  2. Neat photo and story. Thanks for sharing!

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Bill 😉
    Author of “Back to the Homeplace”
    and “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories”

  3. Dionne, you have such a fun family! Will you adopt me and my daughters, please?!? 🙂

    Great post about a great day!


  4. Hi from Richard Kurtti down in Florida, Jerry’s brother.

    Nice to visit your blog.

    Also nice to see your photos.

    I’m at an event and will get back soon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s