Source Citation: Phoenix Memorial Park and Mortuary (200 W Beardsley Rd, Phoenix, Arizona), Henry A. and Eleanore B. Repsher grave marker; photographs taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, 24 April 2017.
Document Description: Okay, this really isn’t a document; I’m using document here in the loose sense of the word. This is an artifact that marks the grave location of Henry Allen Repsher and his wife Eleanore Betty Purvis. Find A Grave does have a photo of the grave marker but I decided to go take a look myself and I was so glad that I did. Henry and Eleanore’s marker consists of an 24 x 24 inch slab of marble with a slightly smaller bronze plaque attached to it. The Repsher family name and given names are cast into the plaque but then dates are screwed onto the plaque to allow appropriate dates, if need be, to be attached. What you don’t get from Find A Grave is that their son Thomas Repsher is buried right next to them! That was a nice surprise to find Tommy there with his parents. Or that they are buried in section 30B in one of the Garden of Rests. Or that they are all buried under a nice evergreen tree when the rest of the cemetery is fairly open with little foliage.
Hank, Eleanore, and Tommy are all under this tree. The marker in the foreground on the left (grave markers are facing towards the base of the tree) belongs to Hank and Eleanore and the Tommy’s is the second from the left in the foreground. They are all cremated based on the information provided by a nice young man named Spencer who was the cemetery employee who showed me to their grave sites.
Background information on the cemetery: This is a fairly young cemetery with the first interment occurring in 1964. It is laid out in a grid pattern and the cemetery has an additional 30 acres to expand into. According to Spencer (the employee mentioned above who was nice enough to chat with me about the cemetery), there is no way to know who is buried vs cremated based solely on the size of the plots. In other words, some regular sized plots may have a casket, may have an urn with cremations, or may have both. It is a park cemetery meaning that most of the grave markers are flush to the ground. However, there is a an eclectic mix of ground-level markers (many with upright 1-foot tall flower holders), upright headstones, full-length grave covers, some homemade memorials, family burial plots, free-standing community (meaning they aren’t dedicated to just one particular family) mausoleums, benches, fountains, and sculptures. I’ve included some of the more interesting ones here for you to get a sense of the cemetery.
James Stephen DeWit got some pretty descriptive stuff written on his full-length grave marker. Apparently, he was born on the dining room table and eventually died at his own dining room table.
And since he loved to fly, the family placed an airplane shaped bench at the foot of his marker so that visitors could sit and chat with him.
And perhaps the most heart-wrenching gravesite in the whole cemetery was this one:
All four individuals perished on the very same day ranging in age from 36 to 14 to 7 to 3 years old. Some sort of awful tragedy befell this family on 26 July 2014.
1920 – 1995
1917 – 1987
Analysis: Analysis surrounding this grave marker is sparse. There are no symbols to interpret since the bronze plaques on the graves around Hank and Eleanore also have the same ivy pattern. There are no embellishments to give us clues to their religious affiliations, hobbies, exact birth or death dates, or marriage date. In fact, it shouldn’t be inferred from Henry and Eleanore being on the same plaque, that they were married. More evidence is needed before that can be concluded. Other sources have told me that Tommy was their son but no such inference can be made based solely on the grave markers contiguous location to each other.
The grave marker is an original source. The death years should be considered primary (firsthand) since the cemetery is the one who buried them and they would know what death year to attach to the plaque. The birth years are secondary (hearsay) in nature since neither Hank nor Eleanore would remember their own births but they would know based on what others told them. The evidence is direct (explicit) if the research question is, “What was Hank Repsher’s birth year and death year?” but indirect (not explicit) if the research question is, “What is Hank Repsher’s birth date and death date?”
While online sites like Find A Grave and BillionGraves are certainly handy for supplementing your family history while sitting at home, there is nothing like a trip to the actual cemetery. I unexpectedly found Tommy next to his parents, got a feel for where they are all buried, learned what section they’re buried in, and some useful information about the cemetery itself.