FORT WORTH, Texas, May 8, 2013 – Where will Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev be buried?
That’s the question the media, family, funeral directors and the public are asking. But, the question is reminiscent of one asked nearly 50 years ago about when the country debated where to bury Lee Harvey Oswald, the presumed assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
“I think (the cemeteries that have been asked) probably fear reprisals from people who have loved ones being buried there, people who may potentially buy lots there,” CNN quoted Peter Stefan, a funeral director, as saying about Tsarnaev.
Stefan told The Associated Press: “I keep bringing up the point of Lee Harvey Oswald, Timothy McVeigh or Ted Bundy. Somebody had to do those, too.”
But, “a dead person needs to be buried,” The New York Times quoted Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, as saying.
Today, the grave of Lee Harvey Oswald is almost hard to find, even to someone looking to find its precise location within Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Burial Park in Fort Worth.
Nearly 50 years ago, Oswald was laid to rest during a brief ceremony observed by news reporters, the secret service, law enforcement and a few family members, according to a 1963 UPI report; reporters served as pallbearers. Oswald, who was 24 at the time of his death, ended up in the Fort Worth cemetery because no other funeral home wanted his body.
Within months of Oswald’s burial, thousands of visitors stopped by his grave to catch a glimpse of the final resting place of an alleged presidential assassin. Concurrently, police worried about the desecration of Oswald’s grave and law officers with guard dogs soon watched over the site.
Oswald’s mother in December 1963 said his grave would not be moved to protect it from vandals – even “if it takes all the policemen in the state of Texas to protect it,” according to a UPI report at the time. Around-the-clock police protection cost Fort Worth $3,000 per month, the same report revealed.
In 1967, vandals stole the granite headstone from Oswald’s grave, but it was apparently recovered days later. Oswald’s mother, however, didn’t return the stone to her son’s grave, instead hiding it beneath her house; the stone was rediscovered years later and purchased for display by the Historic Automotive Attractions museum in Roscoe, Illinois.
Even Oswald’s original pine coffin is in the hands of collectors.
That’s possible because in 1981, Oswald’s body was exhumed after an author theorized the body buried in 1963 was not Oswald’s, but that of a Soviet agent. After the exhumation, authorities confirmed it was indeed Oswald who was buried here in Fort Worth, and his remains were reburied in a new coffin.
However, the real curiosity about Oswald’s final resting place may be the identity of his graveyard neighbor, Nick Beef. Some have suggested the name is the stage name of a comedian and/or the grave is empty, but helps macabre tourists find Oswald’s final resting spot (because Rose Hill staff apparently won’t supply directions to Oswald’s grave, according to various reports).
The question is: In 50 years, will as many people visit Tsarnaev’s final resting place as visit Oswald’s?
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