Time travel as close as your local cemetery.

Inheriting honor and trust

June 10, 2014 / by davidwalton


Dawn Lyons-Tooley standing at the grave of her grandparents, George and Mary Rose.

“I remember every year on All Saints Day, driving from one cemetery to another with my grandparents, George and Mary Rose, and my great aunt Sister Annalita,” says Louisville native Dawn Lyons-Tooley. “We visited the cemeteries where my relatives are buried.

“My grandmother and aunt would take spades and buckets, and plant flowers,” she says as she recalls the annual event. “They’d use clippers or pull weeds by hand, and use rags to clean the engravings on the headstones.”

All Saints Day is celebrated November 1 by the Catholic Church and several Protestant denominations. Relatives and friends gather in local cemeteries to pray for the dead.

“We’d visit Evergreen, St. Michael, St. Louis, Calvary and Resthaven cemeteries,” Dawn says. “And visit the graves of people they knew in Louisville Memorial West and Jefferson Cemetery.”

When Dawn’s grandmother passed away, she left a sheet of instructions for her granddaughter so that another generation would make the annual trek to the cemeteries.

The map to Dawn's lineage.

The map to Dawn’s lineage.

“Under each cemetery name are identifiers like mom, dad or grandparents; forgotten names like Tillie, Walter, Henrietta and Freddy,” Dawn says as she describes the single sheet of paper so lovingly entrusted to her. “Next to the names are typed instructions detailing the location of each grave, with even more detailed notes pointing out not to forget the digger and gloves.”

The list is really a map to Dawn’s ancestry, spread out all over the city.

“When my grandparents died, my mother, Dorothy, and her two sisters, Rose and Gina, took over cemetery duty for many years,” she adds.  “But now the list is my responsibility.

“You know it’s sad when I visit a cemetery and it’s obvious no one is caring for some of the graves,” says Dawn. “Perhaps there aren’t any descendants. But, as long as I can care for my relatives’ last resting place, I will.”

Until next time….

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