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→
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.
Richard and Bertha Birney ran the pet cemetery until 1944, when both of them died. Richard Birney died first, on August 28 12, and Bertha followed him in death on November 25.34 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→
There’s something poignant about the decay at Aspin Hill Memorial Park, as represented by the headless statues I have found over the years. However, people whose pets and human relatives are buried there may see the decay of this cemetery much differently. Continue reading Headless Statues of 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→
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→
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.
FOSTER (across the top edge)
Aspen Hill Memorial Park
N 39° 04.751 W 077° 04.585
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→
J. Edgar Hoover was, among other things, devoted to his dogs. His first, Spee De Bozo, was so beloved that Hoover kept his photograph on his desk at work. When Spee De Bozo died in 1934, Hoover buried him in Aspin Hill Memorial Park. Accompanied by three of his aides, he watched as his beloved Airedale was lowered into the ground. He told the cemetery groundskeeper, “This is one of the saddest days of my life.” Continue reading J. Edgar Hoover’s Dogs→