New England

A few days in New England visiting friends gave me a chance to visit the scenic fishing and tourist town of Rockport, Massachusetts and nearby Gloucester, home to a larger fishing fleet and processing plants.

While it is always a pleasure to visit New England's scenic fishing towns (and enjoy some fresh lobster rolls), the most unexpected aspect of this trip turned out to be Barre Vermont's Hope Cemetery. Barre (pronounced like "Barry") is the main commercial center in an area of central Vermont known for its granite quarries. While much of the granite is used for buildings around the U.S., some of it has stayed behind and found use as tombstones, mausoleums and memorials in the local cemeteries. In the Hope Cemetery, generations of Italian stone cutters have left a legacy of elaborate, distinctive and sometimes whimsical tombstones that celebrate certain aspects of the deceased's life.

Names of the departed and dates of their life are just the beginning in this cemetery. The gravestones of sports enthusiasts, for example, might be carved in the form of a soccer ball, a baseball glove or a race car. Other tombstones display touching memories of a couple's life together. And one, perhaps the most inscrutable, seems to be a carving of the deceased's favorite easy chair. One section of the cemetery also offers a poignant reminder of the great influenza epidemic of 1918, estimated to have killed 20 million people worldwide and 500,000 in the United States. In the Barre cemetery, visitors can see where whole families were wiped out in one year.

While most cemeteries seem to be solemn reminders of death, the Hope Cemetery is more a celebration of the lives of its inhabitants. If you are in the area, it is a sight worth seeing! The photos here capture only a small portion of it.