Monday, July 26, 2010

Meet Susan Petersen, Author of "Nothing But Tombstones"

The sixty ninth in a series

featuring a member of

The Graveyard Rabbit Association


As a youngster, I always tagged along with my Mom when she decorated graves at the cemetery in our small town. I never quite understood the point of setting out flowers for dead people, but I didn’t mind walking around and looking at the tombstones.

While in college, I took a photography class and decided that one of my projects would be on the art and sculpture in Wyuka Cemetery and Calvary Cemetery, located across the street from one another in Lincoln, Nebraska. One of my favorite shots was of a large angel with a missing hand.

The idea of photographing tombstones didn’t really click with me until five or six years ago when I discovered and wanted to document my family’s tombstones. That was when I discovered my great great grandparents, William Kelly and Mary Casey Kelly, were buried at Calvary Cemetery. This discovery was my first link taking me back another generation. That’s why this is my favorite tombstone. What I found to be interesting is that their plot is just a few feet from that large angel with the missing hand that I had photographed about 35 years earlier. I often wonder how many times I walked past the Kelly plot not realizing so many of my family members were buried there.

Flash forward to the present. I have become totally passionate about photographing tombstones and visiting cemeteries. It’s crazy, but it’s like I get this adrenalin rush every time I even drive by one! I always have a camera in the car. My goal is to photograph every tombstone at Greenwood Memorial Cemetery in Greenwood, Nebraska, where many of my family and a lot of their friends are buried.

On Monday mornings, my coworkers will often ask about my weekend and my usual response is, “Great – I hung out with the dead relatives.” Yes, they think I’m crazy, except for the fellow who sits next to me who has been doing genealogy for 60 years.

I joined the Graveyard Rabbits because I enjoy learning from other people and sharing information. I subscribe to just about all of the GYR member blogs and look forward to seeing their photographs of tombstones and cemeteries. I want to learn more about symbolism and iconography of tombstones. From reading the blogs, I learned what one of the symbols on the Kelly tombstone is. I had entirely too many tombstone photos to only post photographs on the Geneabloggers’ Tombstone Tuesdays, so I started another blog, Nothing But Tombstones, earlier this month so I can post my photographs and inscriptions as frequently as I have time to do so.

Advice for GYR wannabes? Wear sensible shoes, socks, and keep your eyes on the ground! And take a long a friend who can identify poison ivy!

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