Tag Archives: Photographs

Marta Formoso Monument, St. Mary’s Cemetery, Kennedy Township

St. Mary’s Cemetery, on a steep hill overlooking McKees Rocks, is one of the most ethnically diverse smaller cemeteries we have. It seems to have been shared by several Catholic parishes in McKees Rocks back in the days when Catholics segregated themselves by ethnic heritage. Some parts of the cemetery developed as little ethnic neighborhoods, and you can often tell the ethnicity of the neighborhood by the shapes of the monuments.

Curiously, the Italians and the East Europeans tend to have the same taste in monuments: cross-topped tombstones with gracefully curved shoulders and, frequently, a photograph of the deceased. Some of these pictures have succumbed to the ravages of the elements or vandalism, but a surprising number remain fresh-looking today. Here is a young Italian woman who died at the age of about 22 almost a century ago, and we can still see her face as clearly as if she sat for her portrait yesterday.

Father Pitt was not able to read the whole inscription, which has weathered badly. He was able to make out the name “Marta Formoso” (he is almost certain that the Christian name is not “Maria”) and the dates somethingth of April 1895 and somethingth of March 1917. The epitaph is mostly illegible, except for the words on the right-hand side; something about a flower and being sorrowful and memory. In a different light the rest of the inscription might come to life.


Charles Taze Russell Grave and Pyramid, Rosemont, Mt. Hope, & Evergreen United Cemeteries

“Pastor Russell,” as his followers called him, founded the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and the International Bible Students Association, the organization that—after various schisms and defections—came to be known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was born in Allegheny (now the North Side), and when he died he was buried in what is now (after a number of changes of ownership) the Rosemont, Mt. Hope, & Evergreen United Cemeteries in Ross Township.

His fairly modest grave monument includes a photograph of Pastor Russell, lovingly preserved (and perhaps replaced more than once over the years).

Note the inscription identifying Pastor Russell as the Laodicean Messenger, or “the angel of the church of the Laodiceans,” as the King James Bible translates it (Revelation 3:14). Russell’s followers believed that he himself was that messenger.

Russell died in 1916. In 1921, some of his followers erected a showier monument in the form of a pyramid. One of Russell’s odd beliefs was that the Great Pyramid in Egypt was designed by God himself as a prophecy in stone. Like most such prophecies, it was meant to be uninterpretable until the correct clever interpreter came along—in this case, Pastor Russell.

This is actually one of the few cemetery pyramids in the Pittsburgh area whose proportions are Egyptian rather than classical Roman. It is meant to have the same proportions as the Great Pyramid, and in particular the capstone is carefully proportioned to match the Great Pyramid’s capstone, which in Pastor Russell’s interpretation represents the Christ.

The pyramid was meant as a marker not only for Russell, but for a number of other members of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, who owned this plot in the cemetery. A few names are inscribed in the open Bibles on the four sides of the pyramid, but most of the blank space was never used. It seems that the separate ownership of this plot has been preserved through the various changes of ownership the rest of the cemetery has gone through.

Joseph Pinkos Monument, St. Mary and St. Ignatius Cemeteries

An English-language monument among many Polish-language monuments; Mr. Pinkos died relatively young, and could perhaps have been a second-generation immigrant. Cameo photographs appear in Polish monuments of a century ago more often than in any other class of monument; indeed, they seem to be an almost exclusively Polish phenomenon. This one is unfortunately smashed.

Unidentified Woman, St. Adalbert’s Cemetery

Father Pitt cannot read the inscription, which has been almost obliterated; but although we do not know her name, we know exactly what this unidentified Polish woman looked like, because, under a thick crystal, a small photograph of her as a bride is embedded in the stone. There was probably a statue on top of the stone, but nothing remains of it.