Sunday, January 18, 2015
Cemetery Geek by John G. West
What is a “Cemetery Geek?” In the last year or two I had to research this term, since the Evansville Courier & Press my city’s newspaper labeled me a Cemetery Geek on the front page of the Sunday edition. I remember some years back that being any kind of geek was considered not the best label. I had noticed that the stigma was becoming less significant in recent years. I believe that this change was due to the popularity of computer geek’s who could save the day for you when something went wrong with your computer. But, do people think positively about a cemetery geek? Too many people still look at cemeteries as a negative place to visit or even talk about.
This is probably a good time to define what a “geek” actually is all about. A geek is somewhat obsessive about their generally single subject like computers, science or even movie series like Star Trek or Dr. Who. Most geeks are sociable and outgoing (these parts I seem to possess a large dose). Geeks are generally of average intelligence, but become very knowledgeable within their geekdom. I suppose that one reason I was concerned about being labeled as a geek was because a few people thought of me as a “nerd” in my youth. A nerd really got a bad rap over the years. Nerds are smart people who lack much of a social life. They often have very few friends. Nerds don't talk much, and don't expect others to talk much to them. They are usually nice people, but don't have the social skills to go out and meet new friends. Actually, nerds are very smart, intelligent people. This was probably why the other kids around me thought I was a nerd… I was just too darn smart! I generally have never been accused of not talking! In fact, I have always been accused of talking too much! Tell me how can anyone talk too much?
So, I guess I could be a smart geek, but a cemetery geek? I know I am obsessed with genealogy. I have researched my family history for over 55 years. I talk about genealogy, I present workshops about genealogy, I have worked with people to help them learn to document their history. I spent many years working with the 4-H genealogy project in Indiana. Call me a Genealogy Geek.
Of course while researching my family history, I have visited quite a few cemeteries. I was talking about how many cemeteries have I actually walked around to study and photograph tombstones or searched for relatives, etc. I was able to name 78 cemeteries without notes or thinking about it much (almost all had family buried there or I had other special connections). I suspect several were forgotten at the time, I have thought about two others since that day. I feel like I could say that I have been in at least 80-100 cemeteries. To me, cemeteries are places of serenity and a place to think about life. Each grave marker is a monument to the person it records. Often a little history can become known by the marker or a group of markers. There are many, many different types & shapes of these grave stones. The statues, carvings and ornate sculpturing are so beautiful like an outdoor art gallery. OK, I am a “Cemetery Geek” – I admit it. I cannot help it!
I am also a geek of many other pursuits, as well. Are you a cemetery geek? If you are, let’s talk about our passion.
I am also known as Indiana Bones, a cemetery geek!