“Best in class” among weeping willow types (figure 1), the Schmid monument also shames the competition in the rustic exposed rock style, too. Let’s have a look.

Figure 1. Schmid monument. Forest Lawn Cemetery, Omaha, NE. Photo: author.

To judge by the fonts used, it appears to have been put up no later than the death of Catherine Schmid (1886-1923), and probably earlier, “pre-need”; by the time her husband Jacob (1883-1950) died, no one was creating monuments as wonderful as this anymore.

This marble monument is cut to resemble an outcropping of sedimentary bedrock. It tilts, as such beds so often do in real life, and in fact the artist had the wit to make the tilt stronger as the monument rises. I suppose we’re meant to view this outcropping of rock as a mere snippet of a larger bed; yet it’s been deeply cut all around as though each side were the exposed side. One can even see sunlight coming through these cuts under the willow’s branches: the monument is perforated.

Figure 2. Schmid monument. Detail of willow branches. Forest Lawn Cemetery, Omaha, NE. Photo: author.

The extraordinary willow is practically in the round (figure 2). The trunk has been realistically shaped and given good texture, with the stumps of lost limbs emerging at intervals. At the top, the surviving branches arc into their characteristic weeping form; they look at first like the bundled swags of laurel leaves one often sees. But up close, the willow leaves are recognizable as such, especially in undercut areas where water has not done as much damage.

A scroll reading SCHMID in an olde tyme split serif font has been notionally screwed to the rock under the willow’s widest arc of branches (figures 1, 3).

Figure 3. Schmid monument right face. Forest Lawn Cemetery, Omaha, NE. Photo: author.

Looking at the right face (figure 3), we see that the marble monument has been set upon a cement base that has been molded to continue the apparent bedding of the rock.

Figure 4. Schmid monument, rear face. Forest Lawn Cemetery, Omaha, NE. Photo: author.

The rear face offers a splendid view of the rock bedding and the three-dimensionality of the willow branches, arcing over from the front. A second scroll, adhering to the rock by unguessed means, repeats the Schmid name. The different character of the foundation is quite apparent from this side (figure 4). I don’t fault the contractor for the sketchy attempt to imitate the carved rock bedding above; I file this under “at least they tried.”

Figure 5. Schmid monument, left face. Forest Lawn Cemetery, Omaha, NE. Photo: author.

On the left the cutter has nobly depicted the roots of the tree growing into and forcing apart the rock strata. Fallen limbs mark deaths in the older generation, yet ever younger generations sprout up and live on; life persists even against something as seemingly ageless as rock.

The concrete foundation is not visible under the grass on the left and front sides (figure 5). It is a pity there is no maker’s mark visible on the monument: their work would be worth searching out elsewhere.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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