By Kathy Arlt, Contributing Writer @Blogfinger
I can’t say exactly where I found it, or when. I think it was on Ocean Pathway, and I’m pretty sure it was sometime during the early 1990’s. When I picked it up to take it home—since there was no way I could just walk past something so unique—I wondered why someone had put it out with the trash.
The reason became abundantly clear as soon as I brought it inside: it stank of mildew and mold, with a strong undernote of cat urine. Within five minutes this pungent aroma filled my little Ocean Grove cottage, and I considered putting it outside with the trash myself. But instead I wiped off the whole thing, front and back, with bleach, and then I took it back to my New York loft, which had the space (and high ceilings) to allow any lingering smells to dissipate. Now odor-free, it hangs in my Ocean Grove living room.
In case you can’t make out the inscription, it reads: “In Fond Remembrance of My Loving Husband/Who peacefully expired February 24, 1908/On his soul sweet Jesus have mercy.” At the top is a cut-out photograph of the gentleman who’d passed away.
I don’t know how common these “memorial posters” were in 1908. I couldn’t find one like it—or even a description of something like it—on the Internet. I did read a lot of articles about the Victorian era’s very elaborate mourning customs though, including the use of post-mortem photography to memorialize deceased loved ones. This practice fell out of favor at the end of the 19th century, so the unnamed gentleman on my “found” poster was very much alive when his photograph was taken. But who he was, how old he was when he died, what caused his death, where he lived: these are all mysteries that probably can’t be solved.