Research material is found in the most interesting places. I read once that this word means “something precious found not looked for” and this link is it–because I was thinking about the Vergon Gravestone yesterday, and just out of whimsy, Googled it. Lo and behold, here it is. The Vergon family gravestone, in Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware, Delaware County, Ohio.
You see, I attended Ohio Wesleyan University, back in the Dark Ages, as a Fine Arts double major. One of my instructors had lived in the area for many years, and when several of us were talking with her about things to do and see in the town (I’m embarrassed I never managed to be in town for the State Fair, so never saw the Little Brown Jug–and me a horse fiend from way back!) she said, “Oh, you have to go to the cemetery and see the Vergon Gravestone.”
She went on to explain that Vergon had been born and raised in France, and had emigrated to Delaware, OH and remained until the ripe old age of 89. He had always said he wanted to be buried under a certain chestnut tree in a farm field in France, but note the date–folks had survived the first World War, but did that tree still even exist? Cremation wasn’t exactly an American tradition, and taking a body back across the sea was involved. I don’t know if the tree survived the war–but either Vergon or his heirs found a solution.
What you will see on this link is around ten feet tall and ten feet wide. It’s been way too long, I don’t remember the dimensions anymore, and Find-A-Grave’s other data is definitely incorrect. But you can reach around within its branches and feel the smoothness of the stone, so I think it’s either marble or granite. Anything else would be in even worse condition by now. Vandals have beheaded the most protruding birds and squirrels, but one or two remain intact. There are birds, lizards, a frog in the roots, and the owl was still there last time I saw it. There’s even a bird’s nest with eggs.
No one could afford this anymore, unless they carved it themselves–and could find a cemetery that would allow it to be raised. But it’s a tourist attraction in tiny Delaware, Ohio, and worth a stop. I love it. Sadly, the cemetery board was no longer able to take care of this beautiful old place, and the city of Delaware has taken over control of it. I hope they ask the Art and Anthropology Departments at Ohio Wesleyan University for student volunteers to fix up the gravestones. This would be a great intern project. (Another small project for when I win that 300 million dollar lottery.)
I hope he’s resting well, under his chestnut tree.