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Content here represents the voice of SIGNATURE SUNSETS, an informational initiative designed to broaden and brighten horizons in the funerary domain.

The material is an outgrowth of a pre-planning reference book, Pondering Leaves: Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue, written by the author of this blog.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

BURIALS IN CARS

A CUSTOMIZED REPOSE

Sometimes a person has been so attached to his car that it makes sense to incorporate it as a personalized element of funeral proceedings.  It might be as simple as including it in a procession to the grave.  But, on the other hand, it could become a storied aspect of an extraordinary life wrap-up:

In 1994, according to seventy-one-year-old George Swanson’s request, his cremated remains were placed in the driver’s seat and buried in his prized sports car, a white 1984 Corvette.  It occurred in Pennsylvania’s Brush Creek Cemetery, twenty-five miles east of Pittsburgh, where he had purchased twelve plots for this purpose.   A crane lowered the car into a seven-by-seven, sixteen-foot grave.  A lap quilt made by a group from Swanson’s church was in the vehicle, along with a love note from his wife.  An Engelbert Humperdinck tape in the cassette deck, with the song, “Release Me,” had been cued up and ready to play.  The license plate read “HI-PAL,” which was Swanson’s typical greeting when he didn’t remember someone’s name.  A headstone with an etching of a Corvette marks the spot. What an example of a customized funeral proceeding!

Other pre-planners have eschewed the piecemeal approach and, instead, have opted for a more overt physical presence within their prized chariots. 

At the Alamo Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, a casual meanderer on its property wouldn’t necessarily know about a car that is sequestered in the ground underneath a simple grave marker.  In 1977 Sandra Ilene West, a Beverly Hills socialite and young widow of a Texas oil millionaire, died at the age of thirty-eight.  She had left specific directions for her brother-in-law, Sol West, to handle arrangements assuring that her body would be buried in her 1964 powder blue Ferrari 330 America.  Though adamantly disinclined to comply with her wish, Sol eventually was compelled to make it happen, in accordance with legal mandates and Sandra’s will that stated he would receive over two million dollars if the request was realized, but only ten thousand dollars if not.  Sandra had dictated her attire, so she was dressed in a lacy nightgown, and she wanted the seat in which she was placed to be at a “comfortable” angle.  The car with the woman’s body behind the wheel was encased in a six-by-eight-by-seventeen-foot box and transported to the gravesite on a flatbed truck.  After placement in the nine-foot-deep grave, the hefty underground mass of wood, steel, and concrete was covered, thereby restoring the ground surface to a conventional appearance.  Passersby are none the wiser!   

More recently, in 2009, Lonnie Holloway, from Saluda, South Carolina who had died at the age of 90, got his wish in absentia... well, not really!  Friends said he had always insisted on being buried in his 1973 Pontiac Catalina, next to his wife’s body.  After a traditional church service and in a traditional cemetery, many folks gathered at the gravesite where an unusually large plot was in readiness. A wrecker with a crane lowered the car, supported by four straps, and positioned it in the grave. Inside was the occupant, sitting upright behind the wheel, bedecked in his hat and sunglasses, headed for his final destination.  All of the man’s guns had been placed in the car, as he had requested; he wanted to take them with him so they wouldn’t get into the wrong hands.  The owner of the wrecker had been contacted by the funeral home a year before Holloway’s death to prepare for this strikingly atypical burial, which allowed the man to be laid to rest with the two features of his life he had loved the most – his wife and his car.

So, given these instances, maybe one should think twice before uttering the commonplace saying, “you can’t take it with you.”  Maybe you can!
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