This weekend Mark and I took a road trip to Portland. Saturday night we attended William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (which was actually Julia Caesar) at the University of Portland. Melinda, our youngest, was assistant stage manager as well as part of the costume crew. We stayed with my college friend, Karrie, and her husband, Geoff. This morning they took us out to see Multnomah Falls, and along the way they pointed out Vista House at Crown Point, a rest station and view point about 24 miles east of Portland, on a bluff high above the Columbia River. When it was constructed in the mid-1910s, this would have made for a nice Sunday drive.
The trip got me thinking about Sunday drives my parents took me on in my childhood and about my grandparents, Charlie and Agnes. They used to enjoy a Sunday drive – often on a Wednesday. Charlie was an engineer on the ferryboat, Eureka, and generally had a day off mid-week. They might pack a picnic lunch and find a scenic spot to lay out a blanket and enjoy some tasty treats. As I understand from my father, often as not one of these scenic spots might very well be a cemetery. (Seems I come by my fascination with graveyards honestly.) As they nibbled on a sandwich or a bite of potato salad, they’d survey the names and dates on the stones, and by the time lunch was over they’d have recreated the whole town in their imaginations – who was married to who, who were the movers and shakers, why that young man died at only 17, who would have been the wise old founders of the place – all based on the names and dates etched upon the flat slabs and majestic plinths marking final resting places. I suspect it was a bit more imagination than actual research, but I sure wish Grandma Kircher could somehow communicate her discoveries from those cemetery jaunts.
Ironically, when Grandpa died in 1952 and Grandma ordered the stone to mark his grave, she left the most meager of informational crumbs on the marker for future picnickers (or genealogist-granddaughters!) There were only two words, Charles Kircher, and a cross. No middle name. No dates. I imagine Grandma expected that when the time came to place her marker, it, too, would say nothing more than Agnes Kircher. I don’t know… perhaps she even had her simple black granite piece made when they made Grandpa's. But thank goodness for my Aunt Mary. Before the stone was placed on her mother’s grave, she made sure that both markers showed the years of birth and death for her dear parents. Not much detail to make up a story about, but it’s at least a start – a morsel of information for an intrepid picnicker to find on a Sunday drive.
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Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.