Little Gracie’s 139th Birthday Bonaventure Tour & Reception with Shannon Scott

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TOUR DETAILS: Saturday July 10, 2021
WHERE: Bonaventure Cemetery & Erica Davis Lowcountry
TIME: Tour 9AM to 11:30 RECEPTION: 11:45 to 1PM
COST: $30 (30 Tickets Only!) LUNCH OPTIONAL
RESERVATIONS: Click BOOK NOW any page or call 912-319-5600
Shannon Scott will conduct a special FIRST ANNUAL tour dedicated to a portion of the 200 works of sculptor John Walz found in Bonaventure Cemetery with Little Gracie’s plot being the highlight. Shannon will present a never-before-seen artifact pertaining to Gracie’s life during tour. Cake Artist Extraordinaire Tina Arnsdorff Tina Bakes On Instagram will present the amazing Little Gracie inspired cake at Erica Davis Lowcountry Restaurant near Bonaventure and is not-to-be-missed!

 

“She adopts every passerby, every passerby adopts her….” 

This has become a cultural credo for Savannah of sorts. My guests hear it every day as I tell them, “you cannot say that you’ve been to the Savannah village, you’ve not joined the spiritual ranks until you’ve gone to Bonaventure for the adoption moment with Little Gracie.” 

Its hard to believe that a girl who died just a few months shy of her 7th birthday in 1889, is at least, in spirit, turning 139 on July 10th, 2021. The statue unveiled in 1891 so technically a tad younger but not by much. And 137 years later, this statue has become the most important locally made piece of portrait art that Savannah will ever know. She is literally irreplaceable.

The Tender Face of Gracie

In 1889, newly famed and recently arrived Philadelphia sculptor, John Walz, had only been in town for a few days when in walks an early customer, hotel proprietor, Wales Watson. A man so bereft by the loss of he and wife Frances’ only child, Walz claimed they didn’t even speak. The father, who at first was unknown by name to Walz, simply handed him a photo of Gracie and turned around and left the studio. A powerful moment and an exchange perhaps not uncommon in such studios Pre-Pencillin 1928 when memorials to children paid every sculptor and stone cutter’s overhead in America and every parent the week a child was born, went to a bank and opened a Funeral Fund Saving’s Account.

 

Gracie’s Childhood Home

Later in life, Walz, a man who’s crew had worked on Mount Rushmore and Stone Mountain Georgia and he himself adding to The Gettysburg Battlefield, called his Little Gracie statue, “my life’s finest work.” As a father himself, how could she not be?

Eventually Little Gracie was left alone to fend for herself and both nature and some persons were not kind. In 1909 a local newsman called her plot “unrecognizeable.” It was that year, some of Gracie’s friends who outlived her, stood her statue upright, cut out the jungle that had consumed her plot and a grand tradition of traditions came to life wtih community caretaking. When you came out to Bonaventure, you always stopped by to check in on your other relative, Little Gracie. And just like they do now, children 100 years ago would fawn and leave toys while parents would leave money to aid in her protection and all very alms like. As I say to guests, “if there were a mountaintop in Savannah and a shrine near the peak, this is that shrine.” She is the people’s icon of thing’s eternal in The Church of Savannah, a non-denominational place. She is the eternal child spirit in everyone and the innocence we must always maintain some of and never forget or abandon. For if we do all of life and us in it becomes lost. Visiting Little Gracie is like personal life maintenance.

Gracie & The Hawk


  

 

 

 

 

 

Little James Dean & Mr. Hop Hop

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Last night in Catholic Cemetery in Savannah, while my dog walked me under a luminous golden crescent moon and a breeze that prompted a desire to sleep in the cemetery, I suddenly stumbled upon a stuffed animal bunny that was face down on the ground. Looking slightly discarded, I gathered that one of the groundskeepers, while mowing, must’ve bumped him from his station. As I held him and scanned around, I knew right away where he belonged. This is what I do on my night patrols. I rescue and reunite grave site objects with their proper owners at no charge. As you can see, he’s seen better days, but before he was ejected from his post, he’d been looking out after his pal and being near for a very long time. He said as much! “Shannon Scott, Stuffed Animal Whisperer.” He reminded me of my own favorite stuffed animal, Justin, who was a polar bear puppet that I received for opening up a saving’s account when I was barely older than James. Justin had the same shiny black bead eyes, that to me, looked like licorice candy. I loved that stuffed animal. He wasn’t a cheap Chinese make either. Old school Taiwan synthetics! He was like my first real pet even if purely imaginary. We slept together and I loved being able to express myself with him through his puppet aspect. Some of my childhood was very lonely and internalized and Justin did seem a friend and gave me comfort. He was probably also the original source of me doing character voices. Many a depressed child has been saved by such creature companions. So yes, there was no way, haggard as this bunny was, that I was about to leave him in such a discarded state! Justice prevails!

I am used to seeing children’s graves and know that Pre-Penicillin, 1928, they were the rule of cemeteries and the majority of them went unmarked. Even so, I am never used to seeing them. The feeling is always a wide pan of gut filled emotions. You always hear the ever truthful cliche, “There’s nothing worse for a parent than losing a child.”  My response would be, “no there is nothing worse for a parent.” Made more grueling by the understanding that part of the future has died at the same time. All the same, I picked up the bunny and put him back where he belonged and I took this photo in the darkness and when I saw it later, it was as if he was looking up at me in his tatters with a grateful smile and I saw Justin all over again. And because I cannot truly speak to James or bring him back from the dead or talk to this bunny, I just felt I had to make something more of it than the picture and this little biddy came out. I am not a parent, but its deaths like these that make me hope for a God most of all and that these children like James, who died so young, are in his bosom and that they all have stuffed animals to keep them company. For you James, a much-beloved son…


Little James Dean Wise!
Who’s your friend with the beady eyes?
A funny looking bunny!
Who does he now spy?
Tis’ I, Tis’ I!
But I’m only passing by!
Tonight’s not my time to die
No, but how sad your burial belies
That sweet boyish face
Primed for life’s great race
I had to pause in my mortal haste
And ponder what made you stop?
When I found Mr Hop Hop
Guarding your grave like his den
Faithful toy friend to the end
I thought I heard him say,
“Better here than the world of men.”
— Shannon Scott

Photo By Shannon Scott (C) 2019