LOT'S WIFE..Turn around..look back...see with new eyes

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Graveyard Of My Girlhood

No…this is NOT about any trauma I suffered as a child….it really IS about a cemetery.

Welcome to Bronswood. It was founded around 1887 by Gabriel Wright and since then it has been owned by only three Hinsdale, Illinois families.

 Wright sold it, in 1910, to Charles A. Brown, who changed the name from Oak Forest to Bronswood. In August of 1946, the Brown family sold the cemetery company to Philip R. Clarke. All of the current shareholders of Bronswood are descendants of Mr. Clarke.

I discovered Bronswood at about the age of 11 when we moved just a few blocks down from it. I pretty much lived on my bicycle and in the course of exploring my new neighborhood I found myself at its gates.

I knew the moment I entered that this was to be MY place.

It was a tree filled park with water and bridges and a huge drainage pipe that kids could almost walk through!
I came with my brothers and sometimes with friends. But mostly I came by myself.

There was peace here and what felt like miles of curvy winding roads canopied by trees. I must have ridden my bike a thousand miles within the walls of Bronswood.

I rode with the swish and rush of creek water over and around the stone bridges.
I rode in the early morning and in the lengthening shadows of sunset.
Stones marked lives that had ended, yet I sped past them, caught in the wind and the sensation.

I sometimes stopped and stood silent by the grave of Mrs.Slaby my Brownie Scout leader who died of cancer when I was still in grade school. I remembered her blond hair, her kindness, and painting tile trivets. I still have that tile.

I sat upon the cool graves in the emerald shimmering grass beneath the shade of the trees.

I was a solitary young girl straddling the short distance separating life from eternity.

 Each grave became a place marked by my human presence. Bronswood was a
hamlet of the dead and I knew all the houses and streets.

I came to appreciate the grave as architecture, and a symbol of human continuity through time. Bronswood was home.

Sometimes a deer would come perhaps to taste the flowers left upon the stones.

There were always birds in the trees and squirrels and rabbits in the shrubs.

Immediately south of Bronswood was a secluded area, reachable by walking through the trees. At the time, for me,  it was a secret, isolated part of Bronswood.  It was my Butler house.  I have since learned that this is a separate cemetery, called "Butler Cemetery".  Butler is the most prominent name within, and it appears on the "two-story" mausoleum.

Upon the graves were written psalms, songs, and verses.



Their voices followed me.
In Bronswood the dead become poets.

I felt a personal responsibility to preserve their authority, heed their concerns, and keep them going in their afterlives.

So I read their names..I said their names out loud.

In return, they helped me to know myself. Bronswood gave form to my life. It organized my thoughts and gave me space to think.

I saw the monuments as guardians. And, in my future life they anchored my past.

Now, as I write this, from my office in Florida, my mind walks over the stone bridge, into the trees, with the path firm under my feet. I am arm and arm with Mr Edward Payson Ripley  b. October 30, 1845 d. February 4, 1920....I visited his "house" often.

Business Magnate. First President of the reorganized Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in 1895.

The plaque on the door of the mausoleum bears the quote,

 "This is the sunset glow. The shadows will soon begin to lengthen. But if I have died to win the approbation of my contemporaries and to be of benefit to those with whom I have been associated, I can look with complacency on the signs of the closing day and so to my rest content." (Speech made on his 70th birthday.)

And I return to myself, still whole in body, still with a life that is acquiring its finishing touches.

Not knowing how I will let go in the end….but absolutely sure that my soul will return, on my bike, to Bronswood.

Linus G Ruth  1892-1918
Fatally wounded in battle at Chipilly Ridge, France. 131st Regt A.E.F.
Thank you for your service Linus.....you were my soldier....the name I said out loud the most....


  1. wonderful!!! your connection to this cemetary must be genetic! you know you passed down the love of graveyards to at least two other generations!

  2. Awesome...I admire the connection and the fact that I am not the only being in this world that is in awe of places such as this.

  3. I have never been there... I live so close, I am inspired to drop in. Thanks for a quiet moment in a bustling life.

  4. When was the last time you were there? Do you remember? What a great place to escape and grow as a child. We all need those places. Isn't it bizarre that you can now find those pics on the internet? I wonder what Linus is thinking of you now...all grown up.

  5. I know this is an old blog post so you may not get this message but I just wanted to thank you. The man buried in the last picture, Linus Ruth, is actually my great-great uncle. My grandfather, who was born the year he died, was named for him. When Linus died the family, and especially my great-grandfather/his brother, was devastated. Ruth Lake, now part of the Ruth Lake country club in Hinsdale, IL, was also named after him. My family just uncovered Linus' WW1 medal he was awarded posthumously and I started doing some research on him and the family. So, thank you again for saying his name out loud and for remembering him.

    1. Lindsey...I just saw your comment. Thank you so much for this information and for letting me know more about Linus. My parents belonged to Ruth Lake Country Club for years...I never made the connection. Bless your family and bless Linus..taken too soon in a terrible war.