Encore Magazine October 2020

Page 12


Five Faves

Historian highlights interesting local tombstones by


When they were younger, my daughters would hold their breath when we drove by a cemetery. Holding my breath near a cemetery would have been a problem for me as a kid, since I spent a lot of time in cemeteries with my brother, the family genealogist who loved to quiz me at a family plot as to who was who. Unfortunately, I did not pass all his examinations. Over the years, my interest in cemeteries has changed from focusing on family to concentrating on design and architecture, points I make when giving walking tours of these areas. Here are five of my favorite local tombstones:

Anna Jannasch-Shortt Gravestone Riverside Cemetery Anna came to Kalamazoo from Germany with her family in 1850. After graduating from high school, she became a teacher in 1868. Already teaching music privately, she opened her own music institute in 1879 on East Michigan Avenue east of Portage Street. Local advertisements and articles listed 19 different instruments she taught for close to 50 years, until her death in 1924. In 1902, a new building at 254 E. Michigan Ave. was completed for her that still stands. Around 1889, Anna called herself Madam. She later stated in her will that this moniker would be on her tombstone, and she also left very explicit instructions on the color of her casket and dress and requested a brass band to accompany her body to the cemetery.

Allen Family Monument Mountain Home Cemetery This prominent granite globe, positioned at a high point in the cemetery, has specific significance for this family. In 1865 Oscar M. Allen Sr. organized the Globe Casket Co., which was one of the first in the country to make clothlined caskets and was in business until 1950. One of his sons also used the name Globe for the construction company he started in 1912, a company that is still in operation. Born in New York, Oscar Sr. came to Michigan in 1837, finding his way to Kalamazoo by 1853. He owned companies that papered and painted house interiors and sold furniture, and he created the village’s first dollar store. Buried in this family plot are Oscar Sr., his wife Hannah, five of their eight children, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter.