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On April 29, I had the perfect excuse to visit the lovely Mississippi River town of Winona, Minn. I came into town for a “dinner with the author” event at The Book Shelf (I was the author!).

I like where they placed my book at The Book Shelf! (All photos by author).

I like where they placed my book at The Book Shelf! So this is technically not a view from St. Mary’s Cemetery, sorry! (All photos by author).

I had some extra time in the late afternoon, so I thought I’d visit a Winona cemetery. I decided to go to St. Mary’s first, even though Woodlawn is not far away. I guess I was drawn to the fact that St. Mary’s is a Catholic cemetery, and I wanted to see how this St. Mary’s would compare to the St. Mary’s I knew in Waseca County.

A pretty day to visit a cemetery. St. Mary's in Winona is kind of tucked into a hillside.

A pretty day to visit a cemetery. St. Mary’s in Winona is kind of tucked into a hillside.

Winona is a Mississippi River town, a couple of hours south of Minneapolis/St. Paul. I think I may have been to Winona only one other time in my life, about 20 years ago. It’s only two hours from where I live, so I wonder why I don’t go there more often. I have an affinity for river and lake towns. I grew up in a lake town. I now live in a lake town but spend a lot of time in Mankato, a Minnesota River town.

St. Mary’s in Winona is quite hilly, which seems challenging to mow. Also, it’s on a bluff so I’m sure the digging is rather rocky.

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Mother Theresa, really?

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Check out the inscription under Harriet! This made me laugh. My dad wasn’t the only one who could find a little levity in cemeteries.

I like the inscription for Harriet in the above photo, but I also wonder about H.E. Larry as a person. This is a great example of stories that can be inferred from cemeteries. Why “Good night, sweet prince?” Was Larry a Shakespeare fan? What does “H.E.” stand for? Why did he go by Larry?

The graves of bishops.

The graves of bishops.

Winona is home to the diocese of Winona. A number of bishops, priests, and monsignors are buried at St. Mary’s. Have you ever noticed that priests and bishops have some of the largest monuments in a cemetery? Spare no expense, right? I did see a familiar name, Bishop Loras Watters. He was bishop of the Winona Diocese when I was a kid–St. Joseph’s in Waldorf, my church, was part of the Winona Diocese.

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A iron cross.

I didn’t see any iron crosses in Waseca area cemeteries when I was growing up. From what I understand, iron crosses are mostly a Czech thing. I don’t live too far from Montgomery, Minn., a major Czech settlement, but I haven’t been to a cemetery there to see if there are iron crosses. St. Mary’s in Winona had plenty–you can see a couple more in the background of the picture above. But the best I could tell, these were Polish graves. I suppose iron crosses did not adhere to strict borders, and maybe they are a broader Eastern European thing. If you know more, please comment!

I was really struck by the number of Polish names in this cemetery. I’m so used to Catholic cemeteries being primarily Irish around Waseca. I learned more about Winona, that clearly it was a Polish settlement in the early days.

I never made it to Woodlawn, the other big cemetery in Winona, so enamoured was I was St. Mary’s. I saw a few people walking around St. Mary’s, which always makes me happy. The landscape guys were also there, a sure sign of spring! Memorial Day is just over four weeks away, so the rush is on to get cemeteries in shape by that big day.

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