They’re dying for you to see it

Race car #61, marker for Joey Laquerre Jr.

I recently came upon a mention of Hope Cemetery in central Vermont, bringing back memories of our own visit there a few years ago. Situated in the small city of Barre, the “Granite Capital of the World,” the cemetery is the canvas for masterpiece markers honoring deceased granite workers. Some are somber, some are playful, and some are just wild. Here’s a piece I wrote about it for the Boston Globe: 

BARRE, Vt., — It was a dark and stormy day. And all the better for visiting Hope Cemetery, except that our marker map got soaked. This cemetery in central Vermont is no ordinary final resting spot, but a Louvre of memorial art. 

In memory of soccer fanatic Robert Davis

When you live granite, as a huge number of Italian immigrants did a century ago in this working-class Vermont city, you die granite. What better way to memorialize a granite sculptor or a worker’s loved one than with a locally produced and quite unique grave marker? 

The 65-acre cemetery, just north of Route 302, is a lovely setting for viewing and strolling. Visitors — from all over the world — are a common sight. A large burial service was going on when we were there on a late fall afternoon, which kept our mood rather somber. That is until we came upon the granite automobile marker, and the airplane, and the soccer ball. These markers celebrate life as much as mourn death, striking a balance between comical and poignant. One of my favorites was an oversized chair in the form of a favorite chair of the deceased. 

Elia Corti's impressive gravestone stands out as being cut from a single piece of granite

The floral carvings are also amazing, and the Visitors Guide to Hope Cemetery, published by the Barre Granite Association, explains the meaning of some of the flowers. Roses symbolize love and wisdom, Easter lilies, purity, and calla lilies sympathy. 

One of the cemetery’s most famous gravestones is that of Elia Corti, who died at age 34 in 1903. This large statue was cut from a single piece of granite and is a life-size likeness of the deceased, carved by his brother. In the sculpture, Corti is seated with his right elbow on his knee. Seams, wrinkles, and creases, and buttons are detailed in his clothing. His face is extraordinarily lifelike. The tools of his trade surround him. All this from one block of rock. 

A granite cube honors Paul Martel

You’ll also come upon bas relief carvings, including one of an angel and another of an elaborate sailing ship said to symbolize salvation. There are family mausoleums as well. The Vanetti family’s has eight crypts. The elaborate grillwork on the door is made from granite. 

Whether your day is dark and stormy or sunny and clear, this is a place to celebrate life and the rocks of ages. 

Hope Cemetery is at Merchant Street at Maple Avenue in Barre. For a map, contact the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, 877-887-3678. The cemetery can be reached at 802-476-6245.

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2 Responses to “They’re dying for you to see it”

  1. Wessel Says:

    The New York Times did a story on Barre in 2005: 36 Hours in Barre, Vt.

  2. boldlygosolo Says:

    Wow, that is a very cool place. (That pun was definitely unintended)

    (It was a dark and stormy day…haha)

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