It isn’t a trip home if there’s not at least one visit to a cemetery. This visit was a little different than most, as we were going to check in on a new gravestone.
My mom, a genealogy aficionado who keeps fake flowers in the trunk of her car “just in case” she finds herself near a cemetery where a relative is buried, took me to Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio, one of the oldest garden cemeteries in the US. Supposedly, during the Great Dayton Flood of 1913, it became a point of refuge as the city’s highest point is located within the cemetery, although I haven’t found any actual evidence to substantiate this claim. (But my little poetic heart adores it–the best place for the living was in the chamber of the dead!)
We had been to Woodland Cemetery years prior to check in on relatives and visit the gravesites of some of the more famous residents:
The inscription on the plaque reads:
"I've seen the motherhood role played by men, grandparents, friends, aunts, and even social workers. It doesn't matter who plays it. What does matter is when the curtain goes up each day, someone is there to dazzle, ad-lib, support, comfort, listen, an fulfill what I feel is the most important role I'll ever be offered in my life. It's the only one I'll be remembered for." - Erma Bombeck
Paul Laurence Dunbar
The inscription on the plaque is his first verse from “A Death Song”:
Lay me down beneaf de willers in de grass,
Whah de branch 'll go a-singin' as it pass.
An' w'en I's a-layin' low,
I kin hyeah it as it go
Singin', "Sleep, my honey, tek yo' res' at las'."
The Wright Brothers
Johnny was a 5-year-old boy who fell into a canal in the mid 1860s. His dog, who had unfortunately pulled him out too late to save him, stayed at the gravesite until it, too, died. According to legend, you can sometimes spot the two of them in the cemetery. Or just the dog. When walking toward the grave, one really does feel like the dog is there protecting the little boy, even in death.
But this time, we were there to check up on a new gravestone, that for my great-great-great grandfather.
According to my mom, no one in the family knew where John Reichard was buried and there were some mysteries surrounding his suicide. They tried to find his grave but always came up empty-handed. It wasn’t until my mom started digging into things that she realized that John Reichard became John Richard somewhere along the way. It took e-mailing the Dayton Metro Library to get copies of original newspapers and an original death certificate to finally prove where John Reichard was buried–and then to get him a proper gravestone, as he was buried in a potter’s field in a cemetery away from the rest of his family. His family had allegedly saved a spot for him next to his wife (who died later) but no one knows exactly what happened and why he ended up elsewhere.
Now, over a hundred years later, he finally has a proper resting place.
from the Dayton Daily Journal, December 23rd, 1911 and January 9th, 1912:
“Says ‘Goodbye’ and Drinks Acid”
Lack of employment and funds, despondent over domestic trouble and drink probably epitomized the life’s activities of John Reichard, 45, into the one word ‘failure,’ and with a ‘good-bye all’ he quaffed two ounces of carbolic acid, Thursday evening about 6, and in a brief space of time was dead. The act took place at the boarding house of Mrs. Rebecca Lucas, 1009 West Washington-st., where he had been living about five weeks, coming to this city from Miamisburg.
Reichard formerly worked as a barkeepers in the Riverside hotel cafe at Miamisburg, but since coming to Dayton had intermittently followed painting. He worked the first half of this week, but spent the most of Friday at his lodging house or in the neighborhood. Mrs. Lucas, returning from a downtown trip, found Reichard in his room with the door locked, and since he had repeatedly threatened suicide, she demanded admission. This was denied, so she went downstairs, but had no more than reached the lower floor until Charles Brandon, another roomer, heard Reichard open his room door and voice the farewell message.
When Brandon and Mrs. Lucas reached Reichard’s room he was unconscious on the floor. Dr. C.E. Kerney was called, but the man was beyond help. Patrolman Wheeler, Motorcop Poland and Coroner Swisher investigated. The body was turned over to Undertakers J.S. Coffman & Brother.
Reichard’s wife, from whom he is said to have been separated, and four children live on Cincinnati-st. She was called and as greatly affected by the suicide of her husband. There was left no note of explanation of the deed.
“Out of Work and Parted from Wife; Ends Life’s Care”
John Reichard Drinks Acid, Then Calls to Friends, ‘Good-bye, All.’
WAS DESPONDENT OVER PROSPECTS
Behind Locked Doors Suicide Fights Last Battle and Determines to Die
For John Reichard, 45, of Miamisburg, Christmas time was devoid of the cheerfulness and sentiment attributed to it, and he put an end to what he thought was an idle dream when he took carbolic acid about 6 o’clock Friday evening in a rooming house at 1009 West Washington street.
Before taking the drug he shouted a farewell to all, and when found he was unconscious and died a few minutes later. He had been at the Washington street address about five weeks.
OUT OF WORK
Reichard was out of work, had no money and was estranged from his wife. He had threatened to end his life on several occasions, but his words were not taken seriously. He is survived by a widow, who was nearly prostrated when she saw her husband dead The old love had returned.
Reichard formerly was employed as a bartender at the Riverside Hotel Cafe, in Miamisburg. On coming to Dayton he worked at several places. His last employment was with a painter. He worked Monday and Tuesday and part of Wednesday.
He had been drinking, it was said, but he did not seem more morose than on other days. Mrs. Rebecca Lucas, who conducts the rooming house, was away when Reichard went to his room in the afternoon. When she returned shortly before 6 o’clock she was told that Reichard had entered his room and locked the door. She thought it strange that he should lock the door, as he was in the habit of leaving it unlocked.
BEHIND LOCKED DOOR
She went to the door and asked to be admitted, but Reichard refused to unlock the door. In an effort to induce him to open the door, she said she would break it down unless he unlocked it. This failed to have the desired effect and she went downstairs.
A few minutes later Charles Brandon, who rooms in the house, heard Reichard open the door and step into the hall.
“Good-bye all,” Brandon heard Reichard shout, and heard the door close. Calling Mrs. Lucas they entered the room and found Reichard lying on the floor. The odor of carbolic acid was strong and the man was unconscious. Dr. C.E. Kerney, of 745 South Broadway, was called, but Reichard was past medical aid. Motorcycleman Poland and Patrolman Wheeler investigated and called Coroner Swisher, who viewed the body and turned it over to Undertakers J.S. Coffman & Brothers.
LEAVES NO NOTE
A search was made in Reichard’s room, but nothing was found that would give a definite cause for his act. It was some time before the bottle that had contained the carbolic acid was found, as it had fallen in a dark place on the stairs. It was a two-ounce bottle.
Reichard’s wife, who lives on Cincinnati street, was notified and went to the house. His children live in the city. Two of them are employed at a West Side grocery store. There are three boys and one girl.
Arrangements for the funeral have not been made.