Vintage Photos of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery

Boston terrier paying respects to Skippy. August 15, 1946. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post
Boston terrier paying respects to Skippy. August 15, 1946. Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection © Washington Post

The photographs in this post are from Evening Star newspaper, which ceased publication in 1981.  The District of Columbia (DC) Public Library holds the photo morgue for the newspaper, which is archived in its Washingtoniana Collection.  The images appear on this blog with permission of the DC Public Library.

Rocky, the Boston terrier in the photo above, belonged to George and Gertrude Young.  It was the Youngs who erected the mausoleum in honor of Mickey, another one of their Boston terriers. Continue reading Vintage Photos of Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery

Rags, War Hero

Rags, War Hero. 1st Division Mascot, WW I. Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
Rags, War Hero. 1st Division Mascot, WW I. Aspin Hill Memorial Park.

There’s a granite stone at Aspin Hill Memorial Park which marks the grave of a dog named Rags who is dubbed a “War Hero” and “1st Division Mascot WW I.” I wondered how this dog became a war hero, but I didn’t wonder for long. The tale of Rags is one of the best documented of the pet cemetery stories. Continue reading Rags, War Hero

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

Pet Cemetery Mysteries

Here are two grave stones that have me stumped.  I have been unable to find the stories behind them, despite the specific details that the pets’ owners had inscribed on their memorials.  I’ll post them here in the hope that someone may know their stories and share them with me.  Failing that, let us read these memorials and be heartened by the knowledge that our animal friends are capable of heroism.

Jockey, Gordon Setter, Fire Hero of Belle Harbor. Aspin Hill Memorial Park
Jockey, Gordon Setter, Fire Hero of Belle Harbor. Aspin Hill Memorial Park.

Continue reading Pet Cemetery Mysteries

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.