I've written a few times before about being a JFK assassination "buff," although that might be too strong a word. But I've read and written quite a bit about it (Oswald did it alone, and every other theory is crap...a phrase I've used before) and I think I know a little more than the average schmoe about some of the odd characters and back-stories of the event.
But this week I picked up a little tidbit I knew nothing about. Like most people who've studied the assassination, I had seen this picture of Lee Harvey Oswald's gravestone in Shannon Rose Hill cemetery in Ft. Worth, Texas. In fact, during one of my visits to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, I had thought about trying to find the cemetery and the plain, simple marker, but I ended up taking a tour of the Texas Rangers' new ballpark instead.
Having such a plain marker always seemed appropriate to me. There was not much about Oswald's life to celebrate, the family was somewhat impoverished and there would be plenty of curiosity seekers as it was, without having something more ornate to attract them. I had seen pictures of his burial - news reporters had to be recruited as pallbearers - with just a few family members standing by, and the marker seemed to fit the situation.
But this week I learned that this is NOT Oswald's original grave marker. There was, in fact, a more ornate one placed at his grave a short time after his burial. Pictured here, the marker has followed a bizarre route from Shannon Rose to a museum on the interstate between Chicago and Madison.
You can read the entire story here, but in a nutshell, it goes like this: On the 4th anniversary of JFK's death, some teenagers dug up the stone and made off with it. It was recovered, and police returned it to Oswald's mother, Marguerite. Afraid that vandals would try to take it again, she had it replaced with the plain, one-word stone we have come to know as Oswald's grave marker. She then hid the original marker in the crawl space of her house, where it remained for many years.
After Marguerite's death, a family by the name of Card bought her house, and some time later an electrician found the stone in the house. Sometime in the mid-'80s, the Cards asked a relative to take the stone for safekeeping, and when that relative died, it apparently made its way into the hands of a step-cousin of the Cards. That step-cousin apparently sold it to a fellow named Wayne Lensing, who operates an auto museum in Roscoe, Illinois, near the Wisconsin border. Lensing has all kinds of JFK-related memorabilia in his museum, including the uniform worn by the officer who arrested Oswald in the Texas theater. The web site for his museum is www.historicautoattractions.com.
The Card family alleges that the step-cousin had no right to sell the stone, and ownership will eventually be settled by the courts, I suppose. In the meantime, I was just excited to learn an additional piece of JFK history, and knowing that it's just a few hours away, I think I'll have to make a trip to Roscoe pretty soon.