My brother hosted his 55th birthday bash at the Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum. It’s a rather strange place to have a birthday celebration but I never said my family was altogether normal. The Cemetery website says it is a “local landmark, as well as a tranquil final resting place”. That’s a nice thought, but I’m not wanting to stay.
He asked everyone to bring their favorite cheese to share and he provided the wine. My taste in cheese is kind of like my taste in wine…very, very limited. My first thought was I needed to do something fancy like a charcuterie board. Up until a month or so ago, I had no idea what a charcuterie board was but thanks to the god of all knowledge, Google, I learned. The more I thought about what I wanted to bring, the more I decided to just be me and bring what I enjoy, a cheese more near and dear to my heart and stomach.
When we were young our parents and their friends, Max and Marian, routinely spend the evening playing pinochle (a game I never understood). Mom and dad would each have a “highball” (or two) and dad would have his Lucky Strike Reds on the table next to the ashtray. They’d play for what seemed like hours to us kids (and here I have to add that the birthday boy was probably only a twinkle in my parents’ eye at the time) and then mom would bring out her piece de resistance, her Bacon Cheddar Cheese Ball. We couldn’t wait to dig in and between the two families, there was never anything left except cracker crumbs. It was a hit then and it was today too.
The Birthday Bash included a guided tour in an enclosed trolley (wine included). Our incredibly knowledgeable guide told fascinating stories about some of the more prominent people in St. Louis history who are buried in the cemetery. Some of the names included Aldophus Busch (and anyone from here knows that Anheuser-Busch is synonymous with St. Louis) and the Lemps (also beer barons)
and the Browns (of Brown Shoe Company) but also nationally prominent people like Thomas Hart Benton, a United States Senator from Missouri (1821-1851), William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame and most recently, Rush Limbaugh.
The beautiful stained glass window is in the mausoleum of the Ellis Wainwright family. In 1891, Ellis Wainwright, a young St. Louis millionaire brewer commissioned the tomb for his beautiful young wife, Charlotte Dickson Wainwright (1857-1891).
Charlotte was a prominent member of St. Louis society. She was described as being the most beautiful woman in St. Louis, as well as one of the richest. Only three days after appearing at a box party at the Grand Opera House in St. Louis, she was dead of peritonitis…It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/1066/charlotte-wainwright
Inscribed on Charlotte’s tomb is the last two lines of the final verse of the poem “Life” by Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1783-1825) and I thought it was beautiful:
Life! we’ve been long together
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
‘Tis hard to part when friends are dear;
Perhaps ’twill cost a sigh, a tear;
Then steal away, give little warning,
Choose thine own time;
Say not Good night, but in some brighter clime
Bid me Good morning
We ended the Birthday Bash with more wine, more cheese and of course, birthday cake. It was by far the best experience I’ve ever had in a cemetery.