Category Archives: Aspin Hill Memorial Park

Looking for Mr. Nash

[This was originally part of “Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals, the Nash Years.” That article is currently being re-written. Sept. 3, 2020]

Looking for Mr. Nash

Having read that S. Alfred Nash was buried at Aspin Hill, I went in search of his grave in April of 2018. I had noticed that many of the gravestones featured the surname of the pet’s owner across the top. I went looking for one that said, “NASH.” I found only one such gravestone, which was for pets named Flapjack and Cueball. However, I could find no sign of the grave of S. Alfred Nash nearby.

Cueball and Flapjack, Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
Cueball and Flapjack, Aspin Hill Memorial Park. Photo by Julianne Mangin, April 2018

A plot about 15 feet away from Flapjack and Cueball was situated in a choice spot under a large flowering cherry tree. A couple of empty beer bottles, some fallen limbs, a broken St. Francis of Assisi statue, and a rusted dog figurine had accumulated in the low corner of the plot. In the center was the remnant of a shrub that was nearly dead itself. Something about this area made me want to check it further.

Cuejack, Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
Cuejack, Aspin Hill Memorial Park. Photo by Julianne Mangin, April 2018

There were a couple of metal grave markers flush with the surface of the ground. One of them was read “Cuejack 1960-1976 A Friend to All.” Since the name Cuejack was a combination of the names Cueball and Flapjack, I thought, “I’m on to something.” (I also thought, better Cuejack than Flapball.) About a foot away, I saw what I thought was another marker poking out of the ground. I scraped the dirt away from it with my hands. The marker had the image of a bulldog on it, representing a pet that lived from 1968-1973. Its name was Nashional Bo. Not National Bo like the beer, National Bohemian (“From the Land of Pleasant Living”), but NASHional Bo. I was sure I was in the right place, but where was Mr. Nash’s grave? I idly picked up a piece of trash, an old sign that read “Section 2,” and flipped it over. The metal plate on the opposite side read, “Nash Court.”

Nashional Bo, Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
Nashional Bo, Aspin Hill Memorial Park. Photo by Julianne Mangin, April 2018

Encouraged that I was in the right place, I took a sturdy stick and gently probed the earth. Next to Nashional Bo’s marker, I felt something hard under a half-inch of dirt. It turned out to be a marker that read: “S. Alfred Nash 1909-1974.” I had found Mr. Nash! I felt slightly giddy that I had rescued his marker and his memory.

S. Alfred Nash, Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
S. Alfred Nash, Aspin Hill Memorial Park. Photo by Julianne Mangin, April 2018

My only worry now is that unless the plot is maintained, Mr. Nash’s grave marker could sink into the ground — and obscurity — once again. I visit the cemetery regularly, and I always check to see that the marker is still visible. We are heading into a spell of regular rain these days, and I’m afraid because the marker is below the level of the rest of the plot, it will get covered up with dirt.

Aspin Hill Memorial Park is owned by the Montgomery County Humane Society. They are maintaining the cemetery with regular mowing, but not much else. I believe that they are doing the best they can with the funding they have. I also think it would be nice if some of the historically significant graves, such as Mr. Nash’s, could get some extra attention.

UPDATE 10/19/2018:

Earlier this week, I met for the first time with the staff of Montgomery County Humane Society, which owns Aspin Hill Memorial Park. We walked together around the cemetery, sharing information. I learned that S. Alfred Nash’s cremated remains were moved after his wife died. The owners of Aspin Hill at that time (PETA) would not allow her to be buried there with him.

I called Mount Comfort Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia where Martha Nash was buried in 1991. They confirmed that Mr. Nash’s remains were interred in the same site with her in 1992.

I don’t know why the family left his marker behind at Aspin Hill, but I’m glad it is there. It’s an interesting artifact that might be used in an exhibit about the history of the cemetery.

Nash Court, Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
Nash Court, Aspin Hill Memorial Park. Photo by Julianne Mangin, April 2018

 

Dog Statues in Aspin Hill Memorial Park

When a monument to a pet includes the figure of a dog, it pulls at my heart just a little bit harder.  These are the best of the dog statues in Aspin Hill Memorial Park.

Skippy, a Boston terrier (May 2013) dog statues
Skippy, a Boston terrier (May 2013)

I took this photo in May 2013, around the time I first started photographing around Aspin Hill Memorial Park. Lately, there’s been a bone between Skippy’s two paws. I’m sure he’d have loved that. Continue reading Dog Statues in Aspin Hill Memorial Park

Eddie “The Monkey Man” Bernstein: a Rags to Riches Story

Eddie Bernstein with his monkey, Gypsy, ca. 1936.
Eddie Bernstein with his monkey, Gypsy, ca. 1936. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post

Somewhere in Aspin Hill Memorial Park lie the remains of a monkey named Gypsy, the companion of a legless beggar on the streets of Washington, D.C. How a panhandler was able to afford a funeral and burial in a pet cemetery is an interesting question.

[Update August 2019:  Gypsy’s grave site has been found!]

[Update September 3, 2020:  There were two monkeys named Gypsy, and both were buried at Aspin Hill.]

I was first alerted to the story of Eddie “The Monkey Man” Bernstein while reading an article written in 1979 in the Montgomery Journal. It was five years after S. Alfred Nash, former owner of the cemetery, had passed away. The reporter interviewed Nash’s widow, Martha, who was still running the cemetery at the time.

Mrs. Nash told the story of a monkey buried in Aspin Hill that belonged to a legless beggar on the street in Washington, D.C. She recalled giving her children coins to give to the monkey, who entertained them with antics and then handed his take over to the beggar. At the end of the story, she shook her head and said, “I used to feel so sorry for him sitting there on the street…Shoot, the man had more money than I got.” Continue reading Eddie “The Monkey Man” Bernstein: a Rags to Riches Story

Lest We Forget

Metal plaque on concrete of a Boston terrier. Lettering above reads “Lest We Forget.” Aspin Hill Memorial Park.

I love this simple grave stone.  There is no name or date on it, so I have no story to tell you.  It appears to be cast concrete.  Above the portrait of the Boston terrier, there is a motto, spelled out in metal letters pressed into the concrete:  Lest We Forget.  It’s a simple reminder of what Aspin Hill — or any cemetery — is about:  the loving remembrance of those who have enriched our lives and are now gone.

Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals, 1930-1960

Postcard, "Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery, near Washington, D. C." ca. 1945. From the digital collection of the Montgomery County Historical Society.
Postcard, “Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery, near Washington, D. C.” ca. 1945. From the digital collection of the Montgomery County Historical Society.

This is an old article on the history of the pet cemetery. For the latest, go to this page: https://petcemeterystories.net/aspin-hill-history/

Richard and Bertha Birney ran the pet cemetery until 1944, when both of them died. Richard Birney died first, on August 28 1  2, and Bertha followed him in death on November 25.3  4 Her obituary in Montgomery County Sentinel stated that the cemetery would continue to be operated by George and Gertrude Young who had begun working with the Birneys around 1942. Continue reading Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals, 1930-1960

Not Just Cats and Dogs

Bird Hutt -- A Wonderful Parakeet, Laid to Rest 9-2-63. Part of My Heart is Buried Here. Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
Bird Hutt — A Wonderful Parakeet, Laid to Rest 9-2-63. Part of My Heart is Buried Here. Aspin Hill Memorial Park.

Dogs represent the majority of animals buried at Aspin Hill Memorial Park.  Cats are almost equally numerous.  But it’s not just cats and dogs that are buried at this pet cemetery. There are also horses, birds, snakes, rabbits, hamsters, turtles, and at least one opossum.  A former owner of the cemetery once claimed that he could bury an elephant if he had to, although he was never called upon to do so. Even more surprising is the fact that there are quite a few humans buried there as well. Continue reading Not Just Cats and Dogs

Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals, The Early Years

Classified ad for Aspin Hill Cemetery and Kennels, Evening Star newspaper, July 1, 1923
Classified ad for Aspin Hill Cemetery and Kennels, Evening Star newspaper, July 1, 1923

This is an old article on the history of the pet cemetery. For the latest, go to this page: https://petcemeterystories.net/aspin-hill-history/

On July 14, 1920, Richard C. Birney and his wife Bertha took possession of what was referred to on the deed as “10 acres more or less on the Seventh Street Pike.” (Seventh Street Pike is now known as Georgia Avenue.) 1 On this tract of farmland, seven miles north of the Washington, D.C. border, the Birneys planned to breed dogs, to board other peoples’ dogs, and to run a pet cemetery.
Continue reading Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals, The Early Years

Frosty – a pal

Frosty Foster. Aspin Hill Memorial Park.

This is my favorite tombstone in the entire cemetery — Frosty, a white cat, posing in a blue dress.  If you’ve ever had a cat, you know that they are usually not inclined to tolerate nonsense like this from their owners.  Frosty, owned by the Foster family, must have been one special cat.  The simple tagline “a pal” at the bottom of the tombstone is understated yet sincere.

Inscription:

Frosty
1934-1945
A pal

FOSTER (across the top edge)

Location:

Aspen Hill Memorial Park
N 39° 04.751 W 077° 04.585

This Ever Faithful Barking Ghost

Pal, Scotch collie of Eric Matus. Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
Pal, Scotch collie of Eric Matus. Aspin Hill Memorial Park.

Get out your hankies, because this is one sad story. On a lovely Sunday morning in August 1928, Eric and Alvina Matus of Capitol Heights, Maryland went on a boating trip on the Potomac. They and another couple were fishing from a skiff near Colonial Beach, Virginia when they capsized. The couple with them were rescued by nearby fishermen, but the Matuses disappeared in sixty feet of water. Days later, their bodies were recovered.
Continue reading This Ever Faithful Barking Ghost