If F Scott Fitzgerald was One of America’s Greatest Novelists, Why is he Buried Here?

5 August 2016

Grave of F Scott Fitzgerald Rockville Maryland
Office buildings and apartment blocks surround the Catholic cemetery in Rockville, Maryland.  Among those interred here is a man whose novels are still read and adored by millions.  Yet you might miss the name on this unremarkable grave, were it not for the occasional bottles and coins that are placed there by visitors.  These additions are the only thing that would otherwise draw the eye to the inconspicuous gravestone of F Scott Fitzgerald.

Grave of F Scott Fitzgerald Rockville Maryland
Dorothy Parker visited the funeral home where Fitzgerald was taken after his fatal heart attack at the age of 44.  Lifting a line directly from Gatsby, Parker intoned the poor son-of-a-bitch. She was literally correct - when he died Fitzgerald was getting by on very little money.  Yet perhaps she was also thinking of where he was about to end up. As interest in the novelist is elevated with the release of the Baz Lurhmann version of the greatest of his four finished novels, The Great Gatsby, it is perhaps time to ponder why he isn’t buried in a place a little more auspicious.

Grave of F Scott Fitzgerald Rockville Maryland
It isn’t as if Rockville had any special resonance for the writer.  His father’s family had come from the town but he had never visited it.  What is more, the archdiocese ruled that as a lapsed catholic he could not be buried with his kin. Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda, died in 1948 and was buried with him.  His daughter had to fight for years to have their coffins moved from their original resting place, in the Rockville Union Cemetery down the road.  It was not until 1975 that passage to the catholic cemetery was finally permitted.

Grave of F Scott Fitzgerald Rockville Maryland
When he died in 1940 Fitzgerald regarded himself as an utter failure.  His funeral was attended by around thirty people in a demoralizing re-enactment of Gatsby’s own under attended service.  His tomb is not venerated as perhaps one of America’s greatest writers should be – days can go by without a visitor. Yet those who come often leave the two things he needed the most before he died – money and alcohol.

Grave of F Scott Fitzgerald Rockville Maryland
Image Credit Flickr User live lough laugh beautiful
Perhaps America should have remembered his words from The Great Gatsby: Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.  It is too late for that now, but amends could be made. Just as the ashes of Marie Curie were taken in 1995 from her rather anonymous resting place to the Pantheon in Paris, perhaps it is time that F Scott Fitzgerald made a final, final journey.

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