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Showmen's Rest

Patricia Sullivan

In writing an obit of pilot and poet Ann Darr, I heard from her daughter that Mrs. Darr wanted her tombstone to read: "Late in life, she ran away from home and joined the circus." As fate would have it, she was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill. where an area of the cemetery is known as Showmen's Rest. It's sort of the Pere Lachaise for circus performers.

Surrounded by statues of five elephants, each with a foot on a ball and their trunks lowered as a sign of mourning, the plot commemorates the 1918 circus train accident that killed 86 performers and roustabouts. The accident was one of those typically horrible wrecks. But despite the rumors propagated by local children, no elephants or other animals died at the scene.

I also came across an interesting link that lets one find the graves of famous folks buried there or nearby -- anarchist Emma Goldman, International Workers of the World (Wobblies) founder Big Bill Haywood and baseball evangelist Billy Sunday. There's also a memorial to the martyrs of Haymarket Square.

By Patricia Sullivan |  December 11, 2007; 11:02 AM ET  | Category:  Patricia Sullivan
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