Is there a true Gypsy Queen?

The term Gypsy is no longer used by the aforesaid people who prefer to be known as Roma. More of a nickname, several countries claim their own ‘Queen’ .

USA
On January 31, 1915, Kelly Mitchell, Queen of the Gypsy Nation, died at age 47 while giving birth to her 14th child. Although she died in Coatapa, Alabama, she is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Meridian, Mississippi, USA. Approximately 20,000 Romanies travelled to pay their last respects. The headstone is constantly swathed with beads and trinkets put there to beseech the Queen to provide answers to their problems. Her husband Emil Mitchell, King of the Gypsies, is also buried in the cemetery.

UK
When Ruby Pearl Marshall died in 2016, hundreds of mourners travelled to Wales to pay their respects to the 78 year old who had 52 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The funeral was held at St Tydfil’s Old Parish Church in Merthyr with burial at Glyntaff Cemetery in Pontypridd, Wales. The Romanis followed a century old tradition which allows each family member to choose a keepsake from the deceased’s belongings. The caravan with contents was then burned.

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Ellen McDonagh from Levenshulme, Manchester, England, survived the tragic loss of two husbands. She raised six kids on her own, and at the time of her passing in 2017 she had 40 grandchildren. She was known across England and Ireland as Queen of the Gypsies. Members of the traveller community in Ireland and the UK travelled to Manchester to pay their respects to Ellen.

Spain
Carmen Amaya who was born in 1918 in the slums of Barcelona, Spain became the greatest Flamenco dancer of her generation. She was also known as the Queen of the Gypsies. She died in 1963 of kidney failure and was originally buried in her hometown of Bagur. Her body was later transferred to the family tomb of her husband, Juan Antonio Aguero, in the cemetery of Ciriego, Santander, Spain. The grave is not marked with her name as the family wished to prevent it from becoming an attraction for gypsies.

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A monument of Carmen posed in traditional Flamenco dress is located at the Jardins de Joan Brossa in Montjuïc, Barcelona.

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The term ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was initiated when President Bill Clinton signed a law regarding the service of homosexuals in the military, which directed military personnel to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, don’t harass.’

Leonard P. Matlovich was an Air Force sergeant who served three tours of duty in Vietnam and was gravely wounded. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and two Air Force Commendation medals for gallantry under fire and exemplary service. Yet, despite his service, he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force after confessing his sexuality to his commanding officer. His struggle to receive an honourable discharge, rather than the general discharge advocated by the Air Force, triggered a national movement regarding gay rights especially in the military.

Knowing that he had AIDS at a time when it was a death sentence, he designed his own headstone with the idea that it would stand as a memorial for all gay veterans.

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His design of a black reflective surface replicating the Vietnam War Memorial incorporated two triangles referencing the pink triangle which was a symbol sewn on the clothes of homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps. The left triangle pointing downward is a symbol of defeat. It is highlighted with the legend, ‘Never Again.’ The upward pointing triangle on the right is a symbol of victory with the phrase, ‘Never Forget.’ Although the dates of his birth and death are inscribed on the headstone, his name (Matlovich) is only inscribed at the foot of the memorial.

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As an activist for Gay Rights, his words are inscribed on his headstone: ‘When I Was In The Military They Gave Me A Medal For Killing Two Men And A Discharge For Loving One.’ Although eligible to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery he chose to be interred in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC. “I believe we must be the same activists in our deaths that we were in our lives,” Leonard Matlovich. A gay veteran’s memorial service is held at his grave every Veteran’s Day.

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Members of American Veterans for Equal Rights have purchased adjoining plots with the intention of creating an LGBT veterans memorial.

This marker for Marine Corps veteran and activist Tom Swann is located near Matlovich’s grave. Swann won a lawsuit against the Navy for discrimination against him as a civilian employee after they learned he was gay. He also led the creation of a memorial for LGBT veterans in Desert Memorial Park near Palm Springs. Never Give Up Hope Or Give In To Discrimination.

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Michael William Hildebrand’s stone does not state that he is gay. However, the use of the pink triangle and the proximity to Matlovich’s grave suggests such. An inscription reads, “It Was Said Of Him That He Had The Gift To Give Love To Those Who Felt Unloved.”

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Abandoned and Forgotten

Overgrown and abandoned cemeteries emote a special kind of sadness.

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Give joy or grief, give ease or pain
Take life or friends away
But let me find them all again
In one eternal day.   1862

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Reader remember dye thou must
And after Death return to Dust
Therefore repent, repent in time
The Grave next opened nay be thine.

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To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die.  1939

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Tho lost to sight
To memory clear

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The parish of Saint Bernard, New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005.

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Lights are from our household gone
Voices we loved are stilled
Places are vacant at our home
Which never can be filled.

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Abide with me
Fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens
Lord with me abide.

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Death is swallowed up in victory.

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Death severs yet unites. 1912

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Only goodnight beloved not farewell. 1938