Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Humble Beginnings

Death can lead to new beginnings. This was true for Anna Eriksson, Don’s grandmother. When Anna’s husband died, Anna’s six children, all of whom had immigrated to Chicago, paid for her ticket on a ship which traveled from Gothenberg, Sweden to New York. From New York, Anna traveled by train to Chicago where she resided with her children and their families. Anna died in 1932; she is buried at Rosehill Cemetery. Her grave site is close to the first wife of Anna’s son, Frits, and Anna’s grandchild, Olivia; mother and child were interred together. Anna’s family marked her grave with a marble headstone, one of the few marked graves among many graves similarly reserved for Chicago’s poor in one of the city’s oldest cemeteries.

It seems that where the family rested, in death, was as important as where they resided in life, for Gunnar and Ebba purchased three lots at Mount Emblem cemetery in Elmhurst, Illinois in the 1940’s. Gunnar and Ebba are interred close to Frits and Doris Erickson at Mount Emblem. Frits, Gunnar’s brother, was the best man at Gunnar’s wedding to Ebba while Doris was the maid-of-honor. The Erickson’s wedding, held on May 28, 1927, and was performed by a minister at Ebenezer Lutheran Church on Foster Avenue in Chicago, which, in turn, is located close to Rosehill. Presumably, the third grave lot was purchased for their only child, Don.

Pictured are Ebba and Gunnar at their wedding, surrounded by Doris and Frits.

However, Don, himself, chose a single grave lot in White Cemetery, a tiny cemetery off Cuba Road in Barrington which was established circa 1852. Don wanted to be near his home and property in Barrington which is about 1 ½ miles distance from White Cemetery. It was Don’s wish to be interred in a simple pine box hewed by a carpenter, a wish that may reflect his upbringing. Carpenters all, Don’s Uncle Gottfried Erickson operated a small factory in Chicago that built coffins for the soldiers who were felled during the war, and kitchen cabinets after the war ended. Like his “second father,” Mr. Wright, Don chose a simple cemetery, a place unadorned by anything but trees, a fence and old gravestones.

Unlike the simple markers used by his family members, Don’s grave is now marked with a marble Chinese foo lion, a mythical protector. The Chinese foo lion is usually paired with its mate. . . The foo lion, a creature that Don loved, is homage to the man who himself created magical homes for his clients, residences that had more than a bit of whimsy and adventure.

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