Honest Abe and Mr. Accordion

At the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois the most note-worthy “resident” is certainly our 16th President. We headed to the cemetery to visit the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site.

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The tomb, which is 117 feet tall is not only the final burial spot for Abraham Lincoln but also his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of the four Lincoln children. Resting at the tomb are Edward, William (Willie) and Thomas (Tad), none of whom survived their parents. A plaque inside the tomb for Robert Lincoln (the eldest, and the only to survive to adulthood) indicates that he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

It is constructed of granite, quarried in my home state of Massachusetts (Quincy). The bronze bust of President Lincoln in front of the tomb features a shiny nose. Rubbing Lincoln’s nose is supposed to bring good luck.

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The main rotunda and the interior corridors contain famous Lincoln quotes as well as smaller replicas of some of the most famous Lincoln statues.

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Inside the burial chamber itself, Lincoln’s crypt is surrounded by flags. At center is the US Flag. To the left are flags honoring the homes of his ancestors. The left-most flag shown is the State Flag of Masssachusetts. To the right of center are flags depicting the places where Lincoln lived. Above the crypt the fitting words, “Now He Belongs to the Ages“.

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The tribute is fitting but I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast to the burial place of President Hoover.

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While in the area we got an alert from an app called Field Trip that Sriram had downloaded on his phone for the trip. Up until this point it had mostly alerted us to things that we already knew. This time though, it led us to Roy Bertelli, aka Mr. Accordion. A Springfield resident and World War II veteran, Mr. Bertelli wanted to be buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery.

One day he went to the cemetery to ask about a plot. He was thrilled to learn that a plot was available on the road leading to President Lincoln’s tomb so he quickly purchased, only to be told soon after that a mistake had been made and that he would need to return the plot. Disappointed, and then outraged when legal action was threatened, Bertelli dug in his heels and refused to surrender the plot. As you can see from the photo below, Mr. Bertelli was successful in holding onto the prime piece of “real estate” with Lincoln’s Tomb in the background.

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Mr. Bertolli erected the large crypt above ground with tributes to his beloved accordion.

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For years, he would visit the cemetery and play the accordion at his tomb, much to the dismay of city officials. In the end, Mr. Accordion wasn’t even buried at the cemetery (though a few sites suggest that his accordions are in the crypt), instead being buried at the nearby Camp Butler National Cemetery.

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It’s time for us to move on from the land of Lincoln, but we’ve certainly enjoyed our time here. If you have an questions, comments or feedback, we’d love to hear from you.

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And Twin Two

Before leaving the area we were sure to check out the other half of the Twin Cities – neighboring St. Paul. We drove over to the downtown area and lucked into a great parking spot. Off we went to explore the neighborhood on foot. Our first stop turned out to be Mears Park where the Concrete and Grass Lowertown Music Festival was taking place.

Food trucks lined the outer edges of the park, while a stage and vendor booths lined the front. A fairly large crowd had gathered on the lawn. People had also found spots on benches or any other place that looked comfy, including back in the lush landscape behind the main lawn.

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Deciding to stick around for a bit to take in some of the entertainment, we waited through a short break for the music to start back up again. When it resumed a few singers from the Minnesota Opera presented a series of songs from a variety of Operas (including one piece from the Marriage of Figaro, which holds special meaning for us, as another piece from that opera was featured at our wedding).

We stayed for four songs and enjoyed every one of them. The performers all had wonderful voices and the crowd seemed very appreciative. Of course, it seems there is always one person who insists on talking through the whole thing. In this case a gentleman who was speaking with a couple nearby, mentioning how he’d seen some opera on TV and didn’t care for it much. But the beauty of an outdoor venue with no assigned seating was it made it really easy to move away from him, so we did.

Once we left the park, we headed up to the Capitol Building to explore the grounds and the monuments. The grounds held all of the cities war monuments. I always find the monuments sobering (and sometimes even chilling), and this case was no different. But it was the final monument that truly drew me in – a lone soldier on this particular section of lawn, with hands outstretched.

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Entitled Monument to the Living, it was dedicated in 1982 to the Veterans of Minnesota, with the simple question, “Why do you forget us?” inscribed on it’s plaque. I can’t recall ever seeing such a piece in the many memorial parks I have visited. It was a good reminder that while it’s important to remember and pay tribute to those who have died defending our country, it is equally important to remember those who return.