30 January 2012

Once More, with Portraits!

Last Words is finally back, after a slightly disruptive relocation to El Paso, Texas! This week, I'll be posting the last of my photos from Killeen. On that last visit to Killeen City Cemetery back in September, I found the shared gravestone of Clinton Lewis Shafer (1886-1954) and Sadie H. (Parmer) Shafer (1890-1970).

The Parmers are a fairly prominent family in Killeen's history, and they are still part of the community; I recall serving some of Mrs. Shafer's relatives when I worked at the funeral home.

The portraits were what caught my attention, though. Gravestones and epitaphs become very familiar once gravestone photography becomes a hobby and/or mortuary iconography becomes a serious research interest, but there is something immediate and personal about seeing a person's face there that often catches me by surprise.

Portraits on gravestones were fairly popular in the early twentieth century, and black-and-white photographs set in stone dot the older sections of most cemeteries. These photographs are printed on ceramic plaques which are then mounted into an indention in the gravestone, which you can see in this (otherwise sort of oddly angled) picture of Mr. Shafer's portrait.

When researching an earlier post about portraits a few months ago, I discovered that some contemporary marker companies still offer this service, though I haven't seen many gravestones from the last couple of decades that incorporate pictures.

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