Monday, May 13, 2019

Green-Wood Cemetery: David Jay Clark

Annamaria on Monday


Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is the most historic such place in New York City.  It was founded in 1838 by Henry Evelyn Pierrepont, a Brooklyn social leader.   My husband David's connection with the place began then, at a point when his family had been in New York (formerly New Amsterdam) for 197 years.  His ancestors bought their plot immediately and the first of them - Simon Van Ness - was buried in it on 5th of April 1853.  David was not a proud man and did not think of lot of himself in any way.  But he was an eleventh generation New Yorker and did express, to me, his pride in the length of his family's connection with Green-Wood.

Green-Wood occupies the highest point in Brooklyn, only 200 feet above sea level.   Not very high at all, but nonetheless important during the Revolutionary War and the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, one of the decisive encounters of that conflict. 

Memorial to the Battle of Brooklyn
From that high ground, one can see the Statue of Liberty in the harbor to the west.  There is a statue of Minerva, the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, looking out and saluting Lady Liberty.   By local law, no building can be erected that would block the sightline from one goddess to the other.

My photo from this past Friday.

Last Friday was a murky day, but here is a pilfered photo that shows Minvera's salute

A tourist attraction for more than 150 years, Green-Wood now has over half a million "permanent  residents."  It hosts four to five funerals every day and draws over half a million visitors a year.  It boasts a magnificent chapel designed by Warren and Wetmore, who also designed Grand Central Terminal.  Many of the most famous and infamous New Yorkers are buried there, including Boss Tweed, Theodore Roosevelt Sr, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Leonard Bernstein.  At this moment in spring, it is glorious with blossoming dogwood trees and brilliant azaleas.    Here are photos taken this past Friday when fourteen of my dearest stalwart friends  accompanied me to inter David's ashes.

While there, we visited the graves of some of David's favorite "fellow permanent residents."

Louis Moreau Gottschalk

After David and Ruth, Lenny (as all we New Yorkers call him) is the resident
 whom I most revere. 

Now just some random shots to show you how lovely and interesting Green-Wood is:

A view of Manhattan from the battle site.
A Civil War monument
The hill where David's family plot is located.
As we gathered at the grave
The urn is reflecting the miraculously beautiful dogwood overhead, at the height of its spring bloom

A final souvenir image, before we left.

 David is now at rest beside his beloved mother, Ruth Van Ness Clark.

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun, 
Nor the furious winter’s rages; 
Thou thy worldly task hast done, 
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages: 
Golden lads and girls all must, 
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust. 

Fear no more the frown o’ the great; 
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke; 
Care no more to clothe and eat; 
To thee the reed is as the oak: 
The scepter, learning, physic, must 
All follow this, and come to dust. 

Fear no more the lightning flash, 
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone; 
Fear not slander, censure rash; 
Thou hast finished joy and moan: 
All lovers young, all lovers must 
Consign to thee, and come to dust. 

No exorciser harm thee! 
Nor no witchcraft charm thee! 
Ghost unlaid forbear thee! 
Nothing ill come near thee! 
Quiet consummation have; 
And renownèd be thy grave!

William Shakespeare
From Cymbeline

This beautiful poem was sent to me Friday afternoon after the funeral by my dear, friend Davis McCallum, Artistic Direct of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.  Davis is in the picture above, first on the right, of my friends who came with me to Green-Wood..  His friendship--like that of the others who were there--is precious to me and a balm to my soul.


  1. One of my favorite places, one of my favorite poems. Sending warmest thoughts to you

  2. What a gorgeous place. I had no idea that David's family stretched so far back in NYC.

    1. It is!
      Yup. There is some doubt if it was 1634 or 1635 that the first Van Ness arrived from Amsterdam. David said, when he told me that, many years ago, “That and a token will get me on the subway.”

  3. Feelings of sadness, warmth, ennui, happiness, camaraderie, fear, love, hope and many, many more, all wash through my veins intermingled with tattered fragments of your words and pictures. Thank you, I'm sorry, I wish you the best, I miss you, we've never met... We're each composed from a swirling vortex of shards of humanity that yet holds its shape and form, like a million spinning tops dancing around each other on a table top, now standing upright and steady, now wobbling and weaving, now bouncing off each other, now dancing off near the edge by ourselves...

    This is a pale mirage of the thoughts and feelings you post evoked. A good Monday morning to you, AmA.

    1. My feelings exactly, EvKa. I’m dancing by myself now, but not so close to the edge as I once was. Having friends, actual or virtual, makes all the difference to me. You are one!

  4. Thank you so much, Triss. Such a splendid place! Friday won it a lot of great admirers among my crowd.

  5. It look beautiful Annamaria, a very nice final resting place.

  6. Yes, Caro. But I am not going there when it’s my turn. I told David long ago that I wouldn’t. I refuse to spend eternity with his Aunt Jeanne.

  7. What a wonderful eulogy, and what a beautiful place for David to rest, among his family and also still not far from you - though I also believe he is even closer to you, in spirit (and simultaneously, completely transformed and free). I am sorry that I could not be there with you, but I am so glad you had loving friends around you, and that you shared the experience with us here. Love to you, my dear friend.

    1. Ugh! This is my third try at answering you, darling Susan! Blogger very often foils me. Anyway...
      Thank you so much for your beautiful words here. It was my beautiful feet to be with you in Kaia last October. I hope someday that I will be able to take you on a tour of the most historic cemetery in my part of the world, as you did me – in that very Important moment - in Okonion. You were with me in spirit on Friday, because you were there with me when I needed you most.

      I am also looking forward to - fair warning! – Accompanying you on part of your book tour next January and February!

    2. Beautiful FATE,

      I love being a blogger, but I hate

  8. What a lovely and fitting post to honor David. It's very moving.

    Best wishes to you as you move ahead in your life with your adventures.

  9. I never realized just how beautiful and bucolic Green-Wood was. It got me to thinking of how when I was back home in Pittsburgh a few weeks back I went to visit the cemetery where all of my family is buried, and where I'll likely end up. It conjures up a very different feeling than did Green-Wood, for I doubt whether any of its permanent guests traces roots back to more than 125 years, yet it's still home, and if The Spoon River Anthology offers any insight on what lay ahead, I'm in for a brisk repartee with my neighbors over why I wandered so far away from "home" only to return there for eternity.

    A very thought provoking post, Sis, and a beautiful choice of poem.