Monday, October 10, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Mount Carmel Cemetery

Mount Carmel Cemetery is located in the near west suburbs of Chicago and is probably most famous for being the burial spot of the notorious gangster Al Capone among many other notorious gangsters. To me, it is simply "the family cemetery". As a child my parents brought me to the cemetery frequently to visit my father's parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. My father taught me how to care for the graves and in doing so, those who were no longer physically with us were always with us. As more of the family died and moved out of state this became more important to him and my father told me that one day it would be up to me alone to visit the family and care for their graves. He always told me stories about the family we went to visit. The poor little orphan boy, his father, the story of the 3 sisters (one of which was his grandmother) who came here long before I was born.  As I grew older, I remembered these stories of my little Italian family and their hardships and struggles and their perilous, sad journey to this country. Leaving behind all they loved and treasured for the mysterious unknown. On occasion my father would host a "cemetery party".  He would gather the family together and go grave by grave with all of us - my cousins and aunts and uncles and tell stories about each person.  In doing so, his wish was for their stories and their lives to never be forgotten. He wanted their sacrifices to be understood, acknowledged and appreciated. Most of all he did not want them forgotten. We visited every Sunday after church.
After my trips to New England, I have a new perspective on my family cemetery.  Although many of the graves of New England from the 1600's and 1700's were very impressive and beautiful, they cannot compare to the more modern graves of Mount Carmel Cemetery.  Although quite modern in comparison, they are are ornate and beautiful.  They are also aging now.
Mount Carmel is a predominately Italian cemetery.   The Italians brought their burial customs with them to this country and can be seen here. Photographs on headstones are common here.  Many of the artisans who made the various statues and headstones were of Italian ancestry also. Many of the graves here stand from 5 to 10 feet tall and 5 to 10 feet wide as well.  One of the graves must be the most unique grave ever produced as I cannot imagine it has been done elsewhere.  The unique grave of the DiSalvo family is an ornately carved image of the family that actually turns 360 degrees from it's base.  Pictured left, this family monument stands about 6 and a half feet tall. The detail in each flower and feature is incredible.  The back of the monument is just as detailed as the front which includes a small round table with a fashionable hat on top.  Under the photographs of the husband and wife, is where the base turns.  You can see the detail pictured above, right.

There are over 400 small family mausoleums here, many of which contain pictures as well as a small alter with stained glass windows behind the small alters.  On the left you will see a typical example of these family mausoleums, which happens to be the resting place of my best friend, Mary Covelli and her father, brother, uncles and grandparents.  The large brass doors lock. Sadly, many of these mausoleums have been boarded up. 
As I visit other cemeteries, I have a new appreciation for my "family cemetery".  Filled with trees and flowers, winding roads, angels and saints it is the most beautiful cemetery I have visited this far in my life.  But then, maybe I am biased.


This headstone is located near my great grandmother. The woman figure is larger than me.  The monument is about 7 1/2 feet tall and wide. 
The grave was probably made for the baby, Dominic Giunta. 
The statue at the right rests on top of a headstone taller than I - probably 6 and a half feet tall and the statue is about 5 feet high. There are also statues on either side of the headstone.

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