The statue of Robin Goodfellow sits sphinx-like on the grounds of Aspin Hill Memorial Park, way in the back near where the older burials are. On one side of the base of his memorial are inscribed these words: “To the memory of my precious greyhound Robin Goodfellow January 3, 1926 – May 24, 1935.” On the other side, it reads, “Robin’s little day on earth is ended. He loved much, sympathized deeply, understood clearly, and was kind.” At the front of the base is the name, “A. Wilson Mattox.” If you look to the left of Robin Goodfellow, you will see A. Wilson Mattox’s own grave stone, inscribed with his birth and death dates, November 12, 1876 to May 25, 1950.
Cemetery lore has it that when Robin Goodfellow died, Mr. Mattox searched in vain for a cemetery for humans that would bury his beloved greyhound. When he buried Robin at Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals, he asked if he could be buried there, too. Fifteen years later, he got his wish. A. Wilson Mattox was the first human to be buried at the cemetery. 1
Since that first human burial at Aspin Hill, many others have chosen to be buried with their pets. George and Gertrude Young, who operated the cemetery from 1944 to 1961, are buried in front of a mausoleum devoted to their dog, Mickey. They have a simple marker on the ground at its entrance.
Some people, perhaps still alive, have stated publicly their intention to be buried there someday.2
My Search for Humans Buried at Aspin Hill
When I started this blog in 2018, I wanted to tell stories connected to the pets buried at Aspin Hill Memorial Park. I walked through the cemetery many times, looking for inscriptions that begged to be researched. Every once in a while, I would come across a grave marker for a human being. I began to keep track of these people who were so devoted to their pets that they wanted to be buried with them. What an extraordinary expression of the love between humans and animals! Eventually, I found a couple dozen humans buried at Aspin Hill. Based on my research, however, I knew there had to be more.3
After I accumulated the names and locations of human burial sites at Aspin Hill, I reported my findings to the owner of the cemetery, Montgomery County Humane Society (MCHS). Because Aspin Hill Memorial Park is a designated site in Montgomery County’s Preservation Plan, I also reported them to the Historic Preservation Program Office (part of the Montgomery Planning).
In 2018, MCHS applied for a permit to develop the three-acre portion of the cemetery property that was never used for burials, human or animal. It was on this land that the original owners built a brick bungalow house and a stone kennel building where they bred Boston terriers. As part of their development application, MCHS hired a company to perform an archaeological survey of the property. Their goal was to locate all human remains.
MCHS asked me to help the archaeologist hired to do the survey, since I had found some of the burial sites already and was familiar with the layout of the cemetery. I showed him the ones I’d found and helped locate additional sites that were identified through a search of the burial records at MCHS’s office.
Many of the human burial sites were unmarked, which is why I never found them by merely strolling through the cemetery. In some cases, the archaeologist and I found grave markers by gently probing the surface of the burial site. These were either grassed over or below a few inches of dirt. Each grave site was photographed, had its GPS coordinates taken, and notes made about its appearance.
At the time of this post, there are at least 50 humans who are confirmed to have been buried at Aspin Hill Memorial Park, and several others that seem likely. I am grateful to the Montgomery County Humane Society for giving me access to the burial records in order to locate as many of these pet-loving humans in the cemetery as possible.
Everyone Deserves to Be Remembered
My interest in the identifying the humans who were buried in the pet cemetery can be explained with how it fits in my other passion. For the last seven years, I have written about my family and its long-ago history with mental illness. At least two of my ancestors died while committed to mental institutions and were buried on the hospital grounds because the family either couldn’t or wouldn’t bring them home to be buried. It pained me to think of what they may have suffered there, perhaps feeling alone and forgotten. Everyone deserves to be remembered.
I believe the same is true for the humans buried at Aspin Hill Memorial Park. I wonder if their descendants even know that they are there? My hope is that the archaeology report will come out soon, so that the information on who’s buried there will be publicly available to future genealogists.
I visit the pet cemetery at least once a week, walking around to make sure that the human grave sites that have been located so far remain visible. I also keep my eye out for safety issues and vandalism. My mission is to ensure that whatever improvements are made to the property during the development process will maintain the historic nature of the cemetery and respect of the memory of the animals and humans buried there.
- Burdick, Ray. “Owner of Pet Cemetery: He Finds Pet Mourners More Sincere,” The Sentinel (Mont. Co. Md.), Sept. 2, 1965
- McDonald, Brooke. “Animal Cemeteries: The Cost of Burial Is Insignificant for a Prized ‘Member of the Family’,” The Sentinel, 1981.
- Py, Ray. “PETA buys Aspin Hill,” Montgomery Journal, June 7, 1988.