John L. “Jack” Zehnder (1917-2016) died at the age of 98 in 2016 and was fortunate enough to be buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, one of the nation’s finest. He lived a storied life, as can be seen in his extensive obituary. To me as, I think, to his obituarist, his most striking achievement was to serve as the navigator of a B-25 during World War II. Most relevant to this essay is the fact that he was an avid dancer. The family mausoleum, though not distinguished, does a nice job of reflecting autumn leaves in its polished granite surface (figure 1).

Figure 1. Zehnder mausoleum. Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY. Photo: author.

The mausoleum sits on a generous double plot, of which it appears to occupy the left half. The right side of the plot contains, beside some landscaping, a statue group (figure 2). I did not spot the sculptor’s name, nor does this recent work appear to have any presence online.

Figure 2. Zehnder mausoleum. ‘Dance with Me’ statue group. Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY. Photo: author.

The bronze group represents a couple, Zehnder and his “devoted wife and dance partner in life of 70 years,” for whom he had the hypocorism Geranium. The obituary’s focus on Mrs. Zehnder as a dance partner almost certainly looks forward to the placement of this statue group on the plot. A closer look (figure 3), compared with the photograph published in the obituary (figure 4), makes it clear that the dancing couple in bronze are not idealizations but meant to represent the Zehnders.

Figure 3. Zehnder mausoleum. ‘Dance with Me’ sculpture group with closeup of faces. Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY. Photo: author.
Figure 4. John L. “Jack” Zehnder as a Lieutenant in World War II. Image from obituary. I have no rights to this image, but I rely on a fair use justification for its use in a critical essay.

The group begs for interpretation; it must go beyond a literal representation of the two dancing (taken from a photograph, perhaps), though it might have taken its origins in such an image. The central point, it seems to me, is the reunion of the couple in happier climes, where the ravages of age have been cast off. I think of the Keep monument in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where the couple appear to me to be reunited after decades as rejuvenated pioneers entering upon a new (after-)life.

The Zehnders are envisioned as picking up their old dance, that is, their companionship, in the après vie. The name of the group, ‘Dance with Me,’ legible in a small plaque on the base, supports this reading, I think; it would be Zehnder’s first words to his wife when they meet again.

Figure 5. Zehnder mausoleum. ‘Dance with Me’ statue group title tag. Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY. Photo: author.

Nikon Z 7ii with Nikkor 24-200 mm f/4-6.3 lens.

Figure 1. 33 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/50 s.
Figure 2. 64 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/80 s.
Figure 3. 55 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/250 s.
Figure 4. 91 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/100 s.

Edited in Apple Photos.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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