Forgotten History


Mt Moriah abandoned cemetary - saved 23Nov13

“Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.” – Gladstone.

Have you ever walked through a cemetery that did not hold some relative? Some people find them scary, even creepy. Personally, I enjoy them. I enjoy looking at the gravestones and monuments, seeing how they have changed through the years. I wonder about the people who were put to rest there – who they were, what they were like. Sometimes they give you clues, small bits of information put on the stones by loving family members. Other times they only have a name and a date.

Maybe liking graveyards makes me weird, but I find them to be peaceful places, often beautifully maintained. But what about the abandoned graveyards? Who is left to remember those interred beneath their soil? The question was brought to my attention by an article published in September 2013 about Medal of Honor winners buried in the abandoned Mount Moriah Cemetery near Philadelphia (, their grave markers hidden beneath heavy underbrush and weeds, forgotten.

I did some research, trying to find out how common these abandoned graveyards are, expecting it to be an occasional occurrence. I was stunned to find that there are estimated to be thousands of abandoned cemeteries in the United States alone. Although every state I checked has statutes to protect grave sites, even abandoned ones, I could find no statistics regarding them. In Florida, a legislative task force determined that some counties have 100 or more abandoned cemeteries and that more exist but are completely forgotten.

These abandoned cemeteries exist for a variety of reasons. Some were originally private graveyards on estates or farms. Others served populations that were not considered important by the people in charge at the time of the burials, including old cemeteries used by blacks or immigrant laborers. But some, like the 380 acre Mount Moriah Cemetery were large and heavily used into recent history. These were the victims of neglect as newer, more modern cemeteries increased in popularity and the economics of maintaining the old cemeteries as income decreased resulted in their abandonment. Even being placed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places has not prevented Mount Moriah’s decline.

Some states, such as Connecticut, have passed laws allowing communities to take over abandoned cemeteries but they contain no requirement that funds are allocated to even clean them up, let alone restore them. In fact, it can be extremely difficult to determine who owns these areas. The city of Tucson, Arizona paid for an outside study of a nineteenth-century cemetery, known as the National Cemetery, in 2005, prior to building a new Joint Courts Complex. They were surprised to find how little documentation existed – they could determine who used it and when but were unable to find either a map of the exact area of military or non-military burials or any comprehensive record of the actual burials.

It seems the only way these abandoned cemeteries are restored in any way is if some local group takes an interest in them, as happened with the Mount Moriah Cemetery. Sometimes this comes in the form of a Historical Society, as when the Prentiss County Genealogical & Historical Society took an interest in the “Campground Cemetery” in Prentiss County, Mississippi ( Other times, someone local to the area raises questions about the cemetery and persuades the town to get involved. This happened with both the Sunset Memorial Cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida ( and the East Hills Cemetery in North Hempstead, Long Island ( The North Carolina Cemeteries Survey (, which is attempting to record data related to old cemeteries, was the outgrowth of an Abandoned Cemeteries Study conducted between 1978 and 1981.

There are attempts to either clean up these old cemeteries or determine who is buried in them and move the inhabitants to newer, maintained cemeteries, but they are sporadic at best. I find it very sad that these people, once loved dearly, now lie forgotten by everyone. If Gladstone was correct in his assessment, what does our treatment of these old grave sites say about our current society?



I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at


A Quiet Hero

Last week a story related to the very late receipt of a Purple Heart from World War II was published (  ).  This was no ordinary “late award” story.  The military did not make a mistake and lose track of things.  The reality is both stranger and more impressive.

The original recipient of the award was PFC John Eddington of Missouri, a soldier in Italy during World War 2.  The finder of the award was Donna Gregory, whose only relation to PFC Eddington was that she was helping her husband clear out his grandparents home.  The box also contained a letter from the War Department to Eddington’s mother, informing her of his death.

The relationship between his mother and the grandparents of Donna Gregory’s then-husband is unknown, but the box troubled her.  With the Purple Heart was a very personal letter from the soldier to his new daughter, who was only four months old at the time of his death.  The letter told about how much she meant to him.

Donna Gregory made it her mission to find that daughter – to give her the medal and the letter.  It took her 14 years of searching but finally, earlier this year, she found Peggy Smith, John Eddington’s daughter, now 69.  Peggy Smith knew that her father received a Purple Heart but she didn’t know what had become on it – the subject of her father was far too painful for her mother to discuss.  In fact, she knew very little about her father.

Thanks to the dedication of Donna Gregory, who went far beyond what anyone would expect, and the advent of social media which finally provided a breakthrough in her search, Peggy Smith now has her father’s Purple Heart.  More importantly, she has the letter he wrote to her so long ago.

Donna Gregory is a true hero.  She went far beyond what most people would do, spending her own time and resources with no expectation of a reward – just the desire to complete the circle begun when PFC John Eddington wrote a letter to his infant daughter from that battlefield so far away.

Next time you find yourself in a position to make a choice – to spend some of your own time and effort to help, or to just pass on – remember Donna Gregory, who spent 14 years to bring a lost letter and a lost award back to the family of a man lost long ago.



I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at


Where were you?


Do you remember where you were?  I had just reached my office and was checking the news.  The first thing I saw was the video of the towers.  At first I thought it was a movie trailer or a hoax.  Then I discovered it was all too real. . .

Take a moment today to remember the people who died just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, the people who died trying to help them, the people who lost friends or loved ones – remember everyone who was changed forever in that few minutes of time.





I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at


Kitten in the wall – Nice story + a writing challenge

This is the story of a kitten rescued from inside a wall over Labor Day weekend.

Certainly the people who reported it and kept calling until something was done to find and rescue it is are heroes to the kitten, but there is a question that remains unanswered: How did the kitten get into the wall.

If there was recent construction on the wall of the building the answer could be simple.  If not, there is an entry point and other animals could wind up in the same place if it is not closed.  This is an issue that needs to be addressed.

It also leads to a story idea:   How did the cat get into the wall?  What else might be in there?

Story challenge:  Anyone interested in trying to write a  story based on that concept and post it for others?  You can post a comment with your story to this blog.


I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at

The Hero Inside


Today’s graphic speaks for itself.  The heroes we hear about in the news do great things that should not be discounted, but there are many small acts of heroism every day that will never be known to the public.

Be there for your child or your spouse or your friend even if you’re in a hurry and it slows you down.  Help a stranger even when it would be easier to just let things go. Say something when you see bullying.  You won’t make the news but you can be a hero to the person you help, all the same.


I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at


Television Heroes

Heroes and superheroes are popular topics for films these days, causing television to try to get into the act.  With the success of the X-Men and Avengers films in theaters and the series Arrow last season, others are jumping on the bandwagon.  Arrow is returning, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is starting, and there’s talk of a new version of The Flash potentially spinning off Arrow.  Even reality television is joining the party.  Over the summer, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hosted a reality competition called The Hero, which tried to put ordinary people in situations that would make them face their fears.

Superhero series have generally not done well on television in recent years, often dying quickly.  Various people have looked at the reasons for their failure from a television critic’s point of view.  I would like to look at it from a fan’s point of view.

I admit it.  I have watched superheroes on television for most of my life.  When I was young, I used to rush home from school to watch Marvel Superheroes and a Japanese import called Danguard Ace, among others.  Since that time, I’ve seen a great many series come and go, with varying levels of success.  What makes me reject one series and embrace another?

  1. I like my superheroes to be heroic.  Sure, they need to have flaws and weaknesses to make them interesting characters.  They can’t go too far into the “dark side”, though, unless it’s a temporary condition caused by something done to them.  I shudder whenever the critics describe a show or its characters as “edgy” or “out-of-the-box”.  Generally, that translates to “I’m going to hate it”.
  2. The show can’t be too preachy.  The heroes stand for right and justice but they need to show that by their deeds, not through a bunch of boring speeches.
  3. The show needs to have a sense of humor.  Characters that are all business, all the time, are dull.  There needs to be a balance between the world-saving ‘big events’ and the interplay between characters.
  4. The show needs to stay true to the established mythology for the character, when there is one.  If it varies too far, unless there is a rational progression to the change, I will reject it.
  5. While I enjoy exploration of the mythologies, preferring it to the ‘bad guy of the week’ technique of story telling, the writers need to be careful about making the mythology so convoluted that it requires a written flow chart to follow.
  6. I do not want my superheroes either swearing constantly or jumping into bed with everyone in sight.  For me, these are not heroic characteristics.  Quite frankly, I have very limited tolerance for them in any show and I won’t put up with them in my superheroes.

I’ve told you my view of what makes a superhero series good or bad.  What’s your view?

I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at

Alone in a Crowded Room

Have you ever been in a room crowded with people, feeling completely alone?  I suspect I am not the only one who has felt that way.  Over the years, I have found ways to reduce that feeling of aloneness.  Maybe my techniques can help you a little in similar situations.

Before I enter the room, I check to see if the way I am dressed is at the same level of formality as most of the people in the room.  Do I have any chance of fitting in with these people?

These days, I usually am.  That was not so true when I was younger.  Back then, I lacked the experience to know what was expected at different functions.  My reading growing up was mostly science fiction, fantasy, or period romances, none of which gave me good clues to fill the gaps in my actual knowledge.  The result was that I was often over dressed, which only added to my discomfort.  Now I have more experience and generally get it right.  If there is a mismatch, it can still be alright, though.   Just smile and think of it as ‘having your own style’ rather than ‘getting it wrong’, and you will be fine.

Next, I look around.  Do I know anyone here?  Most of the time the answer is a resounding ‘No’.  When I am in these situations it is generally because I am attending a professional or work function.  Even if I have corresponded with some of the people present, I won’t recognize them because I have no idea what they look like.  If I know someone, I approach them.  We have something to talk about and the rest is relatively easy.

If I don’t know anyone, the usual case, I enter with trepidation, especially if I’m attending alone.  Part of me wants to just leave, to avoid the uncomfortable situation entirely.  A bigger part of me knows I should stay.

I get a drink and some snacks.  That way I can delay the actual interaction with strangers just a little bit longer.  I know this is cowardly but …

Finally, with no more excuses, I approach whatever group of people is closest to me.  I listen to their conversation for a little bit, trying to find an opening.  I smile at the people I’ve joined.  Most of the time they all know each other well, so I still feel out-of-place.  If I haven’t found an opening after five minutes, I’ll smile and wander off to join another group.  Generally it doesn’t take too many tries before I find my opening.  Once that happens, I can relax a little and enjoy the conversation.

You might wonder what topics of conversation give me the desired opening.  I’ve read quite a lot of books, so that is one possible avenue.  Unfortunately, most people at the functions I attend don’t seem to read or, at least, they don’t talk about it.  It helps to be aware of current events and able to discuss their fine points.  The best subjects, for me, are when the conversation turns to specific activities that I know about from personal experience – in my case, travel, horses, cooking, skydiving, scuba diving, and photography are all potential topics.  Company functions are a little easier, in those cases I can always fall back on “What do you do for the company?” to start a conversation.

For you, the subjects will be different.  It depends on your personal experiences.  If you have children, that is often a good topic.

The important thing is to connect, at least on a superficial level, with a few of the strangers.  You will feel more relaxed and probably enjoy the event more.  After all, what are your alternatives?  You can either spend the evening near the food table, periodically helping yourself to a snack, as I occasionally did when I was younger.  You can leave, and possibly miss meeting someone whose company you would enjoy.  Or you can put yourself forward, joint the conversation, and maybe start to feel a little less alone for an evening.

I recommend the last option.

I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry.  The themes I blog about run through my work.  If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at

Friends give you an honest report

On Facebook you may have thousands of friends.  On Twitter, you may have even more followers.  Most of them you probably don’t even know.  So how do you tell your real friends?

One thing about friends is that they are the ones who will tell you the truth you need to hear, even when it’s not what you want to hear.  They will try to do it kindly, seeking not to hurt you more than necessary, but they WILL tell you.

Others tell you what you want to hear.  They will tell you that you are wonderful, even when you’re acting like a jerk.  They will agree with you when you complain that you didn’t get a promotion you wanted because you don’t play up enough to management, even if they know the truth is something else.  These are the people who will be your ‘friends’ as long as you are rising, as long as you are successful.  They will be the first to pretend they don’t know you if your fortunes change.  They are just acquaintances, people you happen to know.

Real friends are different.  These are the people who will stick with you through the not-so-good times as well as the great ones.  They will tell you if they think you are making a really bad decision – whether it is about a job, a trip, the person you like, or anything else.  You might not like what they have to say sometimes.  You might even be angry with them because of it.

When that happens, and it will sooner or later, take a step back from your anger.  True friends are hard to come by and more valuable than gold.  They may not always be right, but they will always tell you what they believe is the truth.  Forgive them if they make you angry with their words.  You may not agree with them.  You may choose to ignore their words.  That is your choice and it may be the right one for you.  If they are later proven right, though, and your choice works badly, they will be the ones that stand by you an help you recover yourself.  For your own sake, do not stay angry with them.  Instead, try to be as good a friend to them as they are to you.

If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at

My Biggest Hero

My biggest hero is my father.  He is gone now but, to me, he was everything a hero ought to be.  He didn’t often talk about his beliefs.  That wasn’t his nature.  If you knew him, though, you knew what he stood for because he lived it every day.

He was honest and honorable and didn’t believe in cheating his way to success.  Sometimes that caused him problems.  I remember a case when he prepared his department budget for the following year and was stunned when his superiors cut it by some percentage, 10%, I think.  When he inquired, he was told that was done because “everyone pads their budget.”  He argued with them, explaining that he was not in the habit of doing that and that he would promise to continue to send honest budgets if they would promise not to cut them arbitrarily.

I’m not sure what the resolution of that incident was but it speaks volumes about who he was – always honest and straightforward.

In our world today, sometimes we are often pressured to be otherwise and many of us will give in to the pressure.  Think, though, how much more pleasant the world could be if everyone would conduct their affairs as he did – with honesty and consideration for others.

If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at