The stone has eroded so much already that only the outline of the crucifix is visible in the Byzantine cross. The inscription is still very legible, however; the monument was probably put up when Mike P. Sapsara died in 1932, but old Pa Pitt suspects the inscription has been recut, replacing an illegible original. Note that the inscription is a hybrid of Croatian and English. The photograph of Mike P. Sapsara is in poor shape, but you might still recognize him if you met him on the street.
A monument for a girl who died at the age of fourteen. The weathered and damaged angel is probably much more picturesque in this condition than it was when it was new.
The base includes a photograph that is badly faded, but with the help of modern image-editing software we can restore a recognizable image.
This husband and wife spent more money than average on this monument; it is a large variation of the cross-topped round-shouldered monument popular with Slavic and Italian immigrants, with the addition of a crucifix in relief on the cross. But the inscription has eroded so badly that Father Pitt has not been able to read it. They are buried next to a woman named Anna Scmicz, whose stone is inscribed in Polish, and sometimes old Pa Pitt thinks he can make out the same name on this stone, but he is not sure.
The photographs, however, are still instantly recognizable, though one is damaged. It is possible that Anna Scmicz is the woman in the photograph, since this monument appears to have only one name on it, in which case this is the monument for her husband, whom she outlived and was buried next to some time later.
St. Mary’s Cemetery, on a steep hill overlooking McKees Rocks, is one of the most ethnically diverse smaller cemeteries we have. It seems to have been shared by several Catholic parishes in McKees Rocks back in the days when Catholics segregated themselves by ethnic heritage. Some parts of the cemetery developed as little ethnic neighborhoods, and you can often tell the ethnicity of the neighborhood by the shapes of the monuments.
Curiously, the Italians and the East Europeans tend to have the same taste in monuments: cross-topped tombstones with gracefully curved shoulders and, frequently, a photograph of the deceased. Some of these pictures have succumbed to the ravages of the elements or vandalism, but a surprising number remain fresh-looking today. Here is a young Italian woman who died at the age of about 22 almost a century ago, and we can still see her face as clearly as if she sat for her portrait yesterday.
Father Pitt was not able to read the whole inscription, which has weathered badly. He was able to make out the name “Marta Formoso” (he is almost certain that the Christian name is not “Maria”) and the dates somethingth of April 1895 and somethingth of March 1917. The epitaph is mostly illegible, except for the words on the right-hand side; something about a flower and being sorrowful and memory. In a different light the rest of the inscription might come to life.
“Pastor Russell,” as his followers called him, founded the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and the International Bible Students Association, the organization that—after various schisms and defections—came to be known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was born in Allegheny (now the North Side), and when he died he was buried in what is now (after a number of changes of ownership) the Rosemont, Mt. Hope, & Evergreen United Cemeteries in Ross Township.
His fairly modest grave monument includes a photograph of Pastor Russell, lovingly preserved (and perhaps replaced more than once over the years).
Note the inscription identifying Pastor Russell as the Laodicean Messenger, or “the angel of the church of the Laodiceans,” as the King James Bible translates it (Revelation 3:14). Russell’s followers believed that he himself was that messenger.
Russell died in 1916. In 1921, some of his followers erected a showier monument in the form of a pyramid. One of Russell’s odd beliefs was that the Great Pyramid in Egypt was designed by God himself as a prophecy in stone. Like most such prophecies, it was meant to be uninterpretable until the correct clever interpreter came along—in this case, Pastor Russell.
This is actually one of the few cemetery pyramids in the Pittsburgh area whose proportions are Egyptian rather than classical Roman. It is meant to have the same proportions as the Great Pyramid, and in particular the capstone is carefully proportioned to match the Great Pyramid’s capstone, which in Pastor Russell’s interpretation represents the Christ.
The pyramid was meant as a marker not only for Russell, but for a number of other members of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, who owned this plot in the cemetery. A few names are inscribed in the open Bibles on the four sides of the pyramid, but most of the blank space was never used. It seems that the separate ownership of this plot has been preserved through the various changes of ownership the rest of the cemetery has gone through.