Whimsy in Granite: Hope Cemetery

Whimsy in Granite: Hope Cemetery, Barre Vt.

The city of Barre, near Montpelier, Vermont, bills itself Granite Capital of the World. Its granite quarry was worked by natives of Aberdeenshire in Scotland early in its history in the 1880s and then by immigrants from Northern Italy who started arriving about ten years after that. Barre was also one of the Vermont towns to which French-Canadians moved to find work in the late 19th century. Hope Cemetery in the north end of town is a new-world mix of these different cultures, enriched by original settlers and more recent arrivals, all of whom now quietly share the same earth. It is also a gallery of funerary whimsy in granite.

Adoration is the theme, and what makes Hope Cemetery disconcerting as well as fun is the diversity and materiality of the objects of that adoration. A massive gravestone for one couple shows a man and woman sitting up in the marriage bed, holding hands and exchanging an eternal conjugal gaze. One section of the cemetery has an extraordinary profusion of these extravagant gravestones. Among the French names here is that of the Martel family, one member of which evidently served in the Korean War, for theirs is one of many graves with a marker to this effect (visible at the base of the plinth in the photo below),

Death of a Salesman: Martel Family gravestone, with cube inscribed to Salesman, Love, Together, Nature, etc.

A contemporary couple with a lesson or two to teach -- they are evidently still among the living, for their dates are "1938 - " -- have created twin pyramids of granite to commemorate their love and their faith.

TEXT FROM SIDE 1 (OF 8): IF YOU MET JANE ELEANOR VROOMAN AND FORGOT HER, YOU HAVE LOST NOTHING, BUT IF YOU MET JESUS CHRIST AND FORGOT HIM, YOU HAVE LOST EVERYTHING.

Love in Hope Cemetery is not restricted to conjugal, the familial, and the pious. Citizens of Barre have not been shy to celebrate their adoration of cars, flying, trucking, music, soccer – and winning. 

The beloved car
Commemorating flight, or at least a model airplane

 The Galfetti family commemorates trucking:

American landscape with truck

And the Parigoni family a love of music:

Double bass and musical notations on gravestone

A soccer ball poised on a plinth engraved “Never Give Up Hope“ commemorates a member of the Davis family with these words:

THERE IS NO ROOM

FOR SECOND PLACE.

THERE'S ONLY ONE PLACE,

AND THAT'S FIRST PLACE.

Davis soccer ball on engraved granite plinth

These people's love of the stone-carver’s art is everywhere in evidence, not least in this gravestone commemorating the life of "sculptore supremo" Albert Ceppi:

Commemorating granite sculptor Albert Ceppi
Monument to sculptor Carlo Abate, by Philip Paini from a model by Giuliano Cecchinelli; design Elmmo Peduzzi

On the road to the cemetery stands a 23-foot apron-clad figure of a sculptor with chisel and hammer in hand. The 1985 memorial is dedicated to sculptor Carlo Abate who came from Italy to Barre at the turn of the last century and established the first art school in which students could learn drafting, design and other skills associated with the granite industry. The statue is carved out of Barre granite and is located on Route 14 (North Main Street) in Barre.

Text and photos © Linda Leith 2011

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