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Epitaph Index
Epitaphs: D-L
Davis, Bette

She did it the hard way
Indeed, she did. As a teenager, and with the encouragement her mother, Davis hounded producers for bit parts in plays, eventually landing two roles on Broadway.  Seen by a Universal Studies talent scout, she was invited to Hollywood for a screen test.  Although that test and a second were horrible, she landed a role anyway when a cinematographer commented on her "lovely eyes."  For the next several years, Davis appeared in twenty films, none very successful, and finally had her contract terminated.  Inexplicably, she was then offered the leading female role in The Man Who Played God for which she received her first positive reviews.  That led to a five-year contract with Warner Brothers and eventual success.

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Davis, Jefferson
                               At Rest
                          An American Soldier
                And Defender of the Constitution
Jefferson Davis was an American statesman who served as the President of the Confederate States of America throughout the entire Civil War.  He was a graduate of West Point and served with distinction in the Black Hawk and Mexican-American Wars.  Following his service in Mexico, President Polk offered Davis a commission as a general officer in command of a militia.  Davis refused, stating that the Constituion reserved that right to state governments.  He served as the Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce, and later as a Senator from Mississippi.  A vocal opponent of succession, he never-the-less resigned his seat when Mississippi succeeded.  Four days later, he was appointed as a Major General in the Mississippi militia and within the month he had been offered the Presidency of the Confederacy by a constitutional covention held in Montgomery, Alabama.
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Dempsey, William Harrison "Jack"

A Gentle Man
and a Gentleman
One of the greatest boxing champions of all time, Dempsey held the World Heavyweight Title between 1916 and 1925. 

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Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan

      Steel True,
    Blade Straight

Doyle was a prolific Scottish author of science fiction, historical novels, poetry, drama, and even non-fiction.  He is, however, most remember for his creation of Sherlock Holmes. 

His epitaph comes from the poem "My Wife" by R. L. Stevenson:
Steel-true and blade-straight The great artificer
Made my mate.

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Dickinson, Emily

      Called Back

Although today Dickinson is one of the best known American poets of the nineteenth century, she lived an isolated and secluded life and was practically unknown during her lifetime.  Only a few of her 1800 poems were published while she lived, all anonymously.

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Earp, Wyatt and Josephene "Josie" Marcus

that nothing's so sacred as honor and nothing's so loyal as love

Following the gunfight at the OK Coral, the revenge attacks, on the Earps, and Wyatt's famous vendetta ride against the Cowboys, Wyatt renewed his romance with Josie Marcus, a former fiance of his enemy Johnny Behan, and they lived together as man and wife for the next forty-six years.

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Fairbanks, Douglas Sr.

Good Night Sweet Prince
and a flight of angels sing to rest

Fairbanks's epitaph, Horatio fairwell at Hamlet's death, is taken from Shakespeare.  The same quotation is also used at the grave of Tyrone Power and John Barrymore.

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Fitzgerald, Francis Scott Key "F. Scott"

So we beat on,  boats, against
the current, borne back
ceaselessly into the past.

The last line in Fitzgerald's classic novel; a perfect epitaph him, for the novel, and for Gatsby.  We will be who we are, and we are who we were.  The past is inescapable.

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Franklin, Benjamin

The Body of
B. Franklin, Printer
Like the Cover of an old Book
Its Contents turn out
And Stript of its Lettering & Guilding
Lies here.  Food for Worms
For, it will as he believed
appear once more
In a new and more elegant Edition
corrected and improved
By the Author
When Ben Franklin was only 22 years old, he penned this epitaph.  Sixty-four years later, he died peacefully in his sleep.  His funeral in Philadelphia attracted over 20,000, which was at the time the largest gathering of mourners ever assembled in America.  When Franklin's will was read, he left instructions not to use the epitaph, but to place a single line on his tombstone: "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin: 1790."

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Frost, Robert Lee

  I had A Lover's Quarrel With The World

Like many poets, Robert Frost wrote his own epitaph. 

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Gagnon, Rene A.

For God And His Country
He Raised Our Flag In Battle
And Showed A Measure Of His
Pride At A Place Called "Iwo Jima"
Where Courage Never Died

One of the Marine flag-raisers at Iwo Jima, Gagnon attempted to capitalize on his celebrity status following the war, garnering parts in two movies and making an appearance at a Rose Bowl halftime show.  His efforts, however, resulted in little profit, and Gagnon became bitter.  He worked at a series of menial jobs--being fired from most--and kept a mostly unfounded laundry list of personal injustices and unkept promises that he believed thwarted his success in life.

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Gleason, Herbert John "Jackie"

And Away We Go

Jackie Gleason garnered his first television role as the title character in the series "The Life of Riley" in 1949, when other committments prevented William Bendix from appearing in the show's first year.  In 1950, he began to host the "Cavalcade of Stars" for the small Dumont Television Network and created the format--dance numbers, monologues, and comedic sketches, like Ralph Kramden and The Honeymooners) that he would continue to use in his variety shows until they left the air 1970. At the conclusion of Gleason's begining monologue, his theme music would start and he would shuffle off the stage as he shouted, "And Aw-a-a-y We Go!"

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Hi Jolly (Hadji Ali)

        Camel Driver - Packer - Scout

In the mid-1850s, the idea of establishing a military Camel Corps in the southwestern desert to transport mail and support the construction of a Texas-California wagon route was surfaced to Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War, who after some deliberation requested funds from Congress.  The Army received $30,000 to conduct an experiment and imported over 70 camels.  Along with the camels, the Army hired a handful of drivers, of whom Hi Jolly, was by far the most competent, support the experiment and train soldiers and government contractors to use the animals.  Although the experiment was successful, the rough American desert was quite hard on the camels' feet.  Before a solution to the problem could be reached, the military's concern turned to the approaching North-South tensions and the experiment languished.  The camels were transported to Fort Tejon for temporary quartering under the care of Ali until they could be shipped to California for disposition.  Hi Jolly chose to stay in the United States following the experiment and following a stint as an Army scout became a prospector until his death in 1902 at Quartzsite, Arizona. 

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Hickok, J. B. "Wild Bill"

Wild Bill
J. B. Hickok
Killed by the assassin
Jack M'Call
In Deadwood,
Black Hills
Aug. 2d 1876

Pard, we will meet again in the Happy
Hunting Ground
To part no more,

It's difficult to separate "dime novel" fiction about Hickok from fact, and it is quite likely that he killed nowhere near the hundred men as recounted by some. There is no doubt, however, that he was a skilled fighter and dispatched at least twenty enemies with gun and knife.  He fought in the Union Army during the Civil war and later earned his living as an Army scout, gambler, gunfighter, and lawman.  Hickok's icy bravado was legendary, and once when threatened by an armed enemy who claimed he could kill a bird on the wing with one pistol shot, Hickok mockingly replied, "Did the crow have a pistol?  Was he shooting back?  I will be."  In early August, 1876, Hickok was shot in the back while playing a game of poker in Deadwood.  He was holding a pair of aces and eights at the time, a combination that has since been known as the dead man's hand.

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Hood, Robin

Here underneath dis laitl stean

Laiz Robert Earl of Huntingdon.
Near arcir ver az hie sae geud,
An pipl kauld im Robin Heud:
Sic an utlawz as hi an is men
Vil England niver si agen.
Obiit 24 Kal, dekembris, 1247

(Here underneath this little stone
Lies Robert, Earl of Huntingdon.
No archer was as he so good,
And people called him Robin Hood.
Such an outlaw as he, and his men,
Will England never see again.)

Although Robin Hood is clearly a fictitious character, his legend stems from tales of actual brigands, as Robinhood was a generic term used in the 1200s to denote any fugitive outlaw.  The character of Robin Hood has changed drastically over the years.  In the earliest tales, he is vengeful, violent, and self-centered.  The Robin Hood of those tales would never rob from the rich and give to the poor, and it is highly unlikely that he would ever fight for the rights of others.  The Robin Hood gravestone in West Yorkshire with its fractured Middle English epitaph has been shown to be a 17th century creation.

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Jefferson, Thomas

Here is buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the
of American Independence
of the
statute of Virginia
Religious Freedom
and Father of the
University of Virginia

Jefferson's choice of accomplishments for his epitaph is interesting and quite telling in that he never mentions being President of the United States.  Neither does he mention that he was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the creation of the Library of Congress, and the decades of peace following the revolution when America walked a fine line of neutrality between England and France.

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Jung, Carl

Called or
not called
God is present
Jung popularized this old Spartan proverb that he found in the writings of Desiderius Erasmus.  During Jung's life, it was inscribed above the door to his home.  Upon his death, it was engraved upon his tomb.

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Keats, John

This Grave
contains all that was Mortal
of a
Young English Poet
on his Death Bed
in the Bitterness of his Heart
at the Malicious Power of his Enemies
these words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone
"Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water."

Keats, one of the best and now most read English Romantic poets, met with continuously harsh criticism of his works while he lived.  He contracted tuberculosis while caring for his brother and eventually succumbed to the disease in Rome.  His last request was to be buried in an unnamed grave in that city's Protestant Cemetary. His friends, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, believed that his life was finally "snuffed out" by an excessively cruel of his most recent work, "Endymion."

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Laurel, Stan and Oliver Hardy

Stan Laurel

A Master of Comedy
His Genius in the Art
Humor Brought Gladness
To the World he Loved.

Oliver Hardy

A Genius of Comedy
His Talent Brought Joy and
Laughter to All the World.

The famous comedy team performed together for thirty years from 1926 to their last appearnce on British television in 1955.  Between 1927 and 1940, they made sixt-shorts and thirteen feature films for the Hal Roach Studio.  When Oliver died from a stroke shortly after their last television appearance, Stan went into a deep depression that prevented him from even attending the funeral.  "Babe would understand," he explained.

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Lindbergh, Charles and Anne

If I take the wings of the morning
dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea

The Lindberghs' epitaph is taken from his favorite Psalm; Psalms 139:9, "“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me and Your right hand shall hold me.”

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London, Jack

The Stone the Builders Rejected

Jack London was the most popular and prominent writer of his age.  His epitaph is first found in Psalms 118:22 ("The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone") and it recurs at Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and 1 Peter 2:7, making it one of the New Testament's most repeated phrases.  The epitaph, however, has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with paternal rejection.  London was born out of wedlock.  When, as an adult, he identified his father and wrote him a letter, he received a curt reply emphatically stating that not only had the man not married his mother, but that as he was impotent, paternity was impossible.

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Lovecraft, Howard Phillip

I am Providence

Although Lovecraft was never a very popular author during his lifetime, today his works of horror, especially the Necronomicon and those of the Cthulhu Mythos, are regarded as classics.  Lovecraft died impoverished and was buried under his parents monument.  Forty years later, fans raised money to purchase a headstone for him and had it inscribed with a quotation from one of his personal letters.  Graffiti quoting aline from one of his stories occassionally appears at his gravesite: "That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die." 

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Lugosi, Bela (Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó)

Beloved Father

Bela Lugosi's film career stalled in the late 1930s partly as a result of typecasting, partly as a result of a British ban on horror films, and partly as a result of his increasing dependance on opiates to ease the pain of a sever back injury.  With time his addition completely stopped his career and he was living in poverty when odd-ball filmmaker, Ed Wood, located him.  Wood promised Lugosi roles in his planned films if he agreed to be treated for his addiction.  Lugosi agreed and Wood kept his promise, and the men became good friends until Lugosi's death.  Lugosi was buried wearing one of his Dracula capes.

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