Two subcategories here: interesting because puzzling, and interesting because of charm. First, the puzzling:

Figure 1. Pilger monument. Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA. Photo: author.

The Pilger monument (figure 1) features an image of the iunctio dextrarum, the joining of right hands in a clasp, a symbol of a happy marriage. You’ll see that the image, in those benighted pre-Obergefell days, assumed one hand with a man’s cuff, and the other with a woman’s. Still, yet, nevertheless: see that the thumbs are on the bottom of the image and try to imagine how that could happen in real life. If I were a wag I might suggest that it indicates to a marriage what the U.S. flag indicates when flown upside-down. But I’m not, so I won’t.

Maybe Mr. Pilger’s name went conventionally on the left, but the shop only had a stencil (or template) for the iunctio with the husband’s hand on the right, and someone said (with a crazy-bananas insistence on literality and an utter lack of faith in the viewer’s ability to see past surface impressions), “we can’t imply Mr. Pilger wore lacy cuffs!” So they flipped the template around, the alignment of the gendered cuffs trumping the illogic of inverted hands.

Figure 2. Millar-Jones monument. Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA. Photo: author.

The Millar-Jones monument (figure 2) is a rather etiolated Egyptian-revival design. The Ophis snakes with winged solar disc make the design source clear; the papyrus flowers and cavetto cornice play along. Interestingly enough, the battered sides of the notional Egyptian structure are “encased” at the sides by sloped flat planes, and in fact this monument, though nodding to Egyptian sensibilities has the streamline moderne written all over it. I thought at first it had been cast of concrete.

Figure 3. De Pietro monument. Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA. Photo: author.

The De Pietro family (figure 3) had a predilection for statues. No problem with that. They also respected eclecticism, in that they have adopted a Celtic cross whereas they are (likely) of Italian origin.

What’s going on with that “IX C” on the cross, however?

First, early Christians devised an anagram of the phrase “Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ,” “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” That anagram is ΙΧΘΥΣ, which happens to be the Greek word for ‘fish’. All well and good. Note that later Greek tended to use the so-called ‘lunate’ sigma instead of the older four-bar sigma, i.e., C instead of Σ. ‘Lunate’ because it reminded its namers of the crescent moon. Sigma has an ‘S’ sound, iota looks and sounds like an ‘I’, and chi looks like an ‘X’ and sounded something like a ‘K’. The name ‘Jesus’ was spelled IHCOYC when capitalized. ‘Christ’ was XPICTOC.

So, on many monuments you will find IHC, the first three letters of ‘Jesus’, sometimes irrationally spelled using mixed Greek and Latin characters: IHS. Fair enough.

With that in mind, what might the “IX C” on the De Pietro monument mean? First, I am not sure that the cutter intended there to be a space between X and C. Suppose such a space was deliberate: I could see an intended phrase IHCOYC XPICTOC ϹΩΤΗΡ, “Jesus Christ, savior,” shortened from ΙΧ[ΘΥ]Ϲ. But why the gap between X and C? Or rather, why a greater gap than the one properly imagined to separate the two names IHCOYC and XPICTOC? Maybe the names are felt to go more closely together than the following appositive?

Well, what if the gap were not intended, and it just reflects irregularity in the cutter’s product? Is it a mistake for IHC? Or is it in fact ΙΧ[ΘΥ]Ϲ with the bracketed letters omitted? Some guidance from the De Pietros would be helpful.

Figure 4. Yeager monument. Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA. Photo: author.

Lilies on the Yeager monument (figure 4) point to Easter and resurrection. No surprise in that imagery. A nice touch, however, is the fallen lily, betokening life cut off in that usual way that snapped off flowers or broken tree stumps do. So, symbols for death and resurrection in ascending order on the stone. Noice!

Let us now pass from the puzzling to the charming.

Figure 5. Kroptavich monument. Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA. Photo: author.

At first one might think that Peggy’s commemorator (likely, for reasons we will see, to be her husband) was emphasizing her love of card games, or gambling (figure 5). It is, after all, not unusual to find symbols of pastimes and hobbies and special enthusiasms on monuments. Yet maybe gambling is not the first thing one would think of as a commendatory symbol on a grave.

But in fact, gambling is the central message here; it is a gamble to find a good spouse! One is reminded of the Odd Couple episode where Felix assists Oscar at the IRS by producing Oscar’s cancelled alimony checks. They were in a box misleadingly labeled “gambling losses.” Mr. Kroptavich here signals his having ‘hit the jackpot’, so to speak, with Peggy, and gives the poker hand of a “royal flush.” That’s the best hand in poker, except that spades outrank hearts. But of course Kroptavich was lucky in love . . . . Which, by another cliché, means he was unlucky in actual gambling!

Figure 6. Junz monument. Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA. Photo: author.

It is, as always, heartbreaking to have to confront child mortality in the cemetery. Emily Junz, whose charming likeness is on her heart-shaped monument (figure 6), was evidently enamored of ballet; and one can see that perhaps Tweety Bird was a hypocorism for her. See that Tweety is not merely placed on the stone as a recollection of Emily’s possible enthusiasm for Loony Tunes: Tweety has a halo, which I think means it must be a substitute for Emily. My daughter is effectively the same age as Emily and she has never, I think, watched Loony Tunes except maybe if some bits were quoted on YouTube or in a meme. So maybe her parents called her Tweety because to them Tweety was a beloved figure.

<rant> Here let me just register that my daughter’s and Emily’s generation was impoverished by having to watch earnestly self-improving cartoons like Clifford and Caillou and Arthur and Dragon Tales. Did I hate these shows? Of course not! Except Caillou. I really hated Caillou. The tubbies were a relief by contrast, even the late, stripped-down episodes. </rant>

Figure 7. Del Guercio monument. Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA. Photo: author.

The Del Guercios also deserve our sympathy for having lost their charming boy Jacob (figure 7). Jakie was of course immensely unlucky to have died so young. Yet, he did have this luck: he lived to see the original Star Wars trilogy mit Bewußtsein, and if there is a silver lining to the unhappy dark clouds of his fate, it is that he did not have ever to see the reissued trilogy, the prequels, and the whatever we call the J.J. Abrams things of the last decade. I wish Jakie had lived! But if God in his infinite wisdom felt the need to take him away, his being spared the dreck that followed the original trilogy is material for a consolatio.

Nikon Z 7ii with Nikkor Z 24-200 mm f/4-6.3 lens.

Figure 1. 70 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/100 s.
Figure 2. 70 mm, f.8, ISO 200, 1/250 s.
Figure 3. 70 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/100 s.
Figure 4. 71 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/100 s.
Figure 5. 110 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/250 s.
Figure 6. 88 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/400 s.
Figure 7. 51 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/125 s.

ISO is up because my footing wasn’t too stable and there was a stiff breeze: I kept the exposures short for sharpness’ sake.

Editing in Apple Photos.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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  1. Three comments:

    The Kroptavich monument, despite the obvious Slavic name origin (probably Serbian, but possibly Croat), has on it the symbol for the United Methodist Church. Twice. Once for each Wesley?

    I suspect the De Pietro family has left out the ΘΥ in the monument to emphasize its rabidly anit-Arian, pro-Nicene leanings. Or its heterodox belief in a modalist trinity.

    Family names with De instead of Di are not uncommon in Sicily and Sardinia, maybe a Sicilian variation or maybe under Bourbon influence. I personally prefer Scotch, but in a pinch…

    Liked by 1 person

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