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Received a sweet call the other day (pun intended) from a Riverside resident named Mary Syrup.
Mary is one of the volunteer weeders in town, having adopted a small triangle park she and a friend tend to, but this wasn't the nature of her call. She wanted to talk about a cemetery. She admitted the subject could be morbid, but there is more to it.
Mary and her husband, Robert, who is of Bohemian descent and has been a member of several Czech organizations, are members of Friends of Bohemian National Cemetery, a 300-member group.
The group promotes the historical significance and works to preserve the artistic heritage of the cemetery, which is one of two cemeteries in Chicago on the National Register of Historic Places. Syrup was quick to say that there are no ghost stories associated with the cemetery, similar to the tale of "Resurrection Mary" at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice.
Founded in 1887 at 5255 N. Pulaski Road, Bohemian National has a long history, and its conflicts with the Catholic Church are only a small part of that history. Among those buried at the 124-acre cemetery are 143 victims of the 1915 Eastland disaster and the final resting place of Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak who died in 1933 during an assasination attempt on President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Visitors to the cemetery can explore the grounds on their own or take a guided tour to see sculptures that adorn many of the monuments.
What prompted Mary Syrup to contact me was an article the Chicago Tribune of April 22, and an article on Marjorie Stueckemann about why she formed the "Friends" organization.
Mary says the group does fundraising, with the current project being the restoration of the decorative art of John A. Mallin, which can be seen in the Ceremony Hall of the crematorium/columbarium. The fundraiser is planned for May 19.
To learn more about the Friends of Bohemian National Cemetery visit online at www.friendsofbnc.org. I understand they even have a Cubs wall known as "The Eternal Skybox" which houses the ashes of Cubs fans. That's eerie!
So much to see, so much to learn on a trip to a cemetery. Thanks for the call, Mary. It was very sweet of you.