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Hope Cemetery: Life and death celebrated in a garden of granite

While On the Road in America, I continually look for unique and interesting places and people. In Barre, Vermont, I found just such a special place, a landscape irrevocably linked in life and death to the people of this community whose work is art in its highest form.

The pensive Spence monument is intriguing as the only one not immaculately tended.

Ten years ago friends introduced me to Hope Cemetery, first in a quick drive-by on the way to somewhere else, and later, for a “quick” tour that became a lengthy monument-by-monument tour. For these monuments are like no others. They honor the dead, but are of themselves museum quality works of art and imagination that attract a flurry of annual visitors from all over the world. The granite monuments, carved from Barre’s own Rock of Ages Quarry, rank as the best granite craftsmanship in the world. Most people do not realize that many of the monuments across our country are crafted from Barre (and other Vermont) granite.

I walked the peaceful, quiet grounds, awestruck by the ingenuity of many of the stones, and by the willingness of the creators to step beyond the traditional “names and dates of life and death” inscription and create memorials that capture the essence of individual in the form of a hobby, a career, a love, a memory…

To say that the images unfolding here are breathtaking is an understatement. I was walking through an open air museum of the finest art.

Barre was known for its master craftsmen, Italian stone carvers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These master craftsmen were artists of incredible talent and ingenuity, working the rock solid stone into forms of grace and beauty, power and poignancy. The cemetery includes master works of custom figures, bas-reliefs and ornate crypts, where many of these craftsmen and their families were ultimately buried.

The Braun monument with its open book is one of my favorites.

Inscribed in cursive, in impeccable French, a tribute to Madeleine Braun (1931-1994)

This poem, in flawless cursive, in French, remains a tribute to Madeleine Braun. I was attracted to it first because of its sheer beauty, then the French language I love, and then the inscription “Madeleine,” which was my late mother’s name (she also spoke fluent French).

Inscribed in the base, the name 'Madeleine"

On every visit, I walk up to this stone and run my fingers over the inscription, never tiring of the words and the love they represent. It reads in part:

Just as a ray of sunshine, you illuminate my life
with your magnificent smile, your grand generosity,
your dynamic energy, and your marvelous joy in life.
Young of heart, body and spirit (mind)…
you are an admirable example of courage and love…
Your husband, your sons, and all who love you
We think of you and want to say ‘Thank you, Madeleine’
for giving us the chance to love you.”

The Braun monument dominates its section of Hope Cemetery

The theme of love eternal continues with the near life-sized sculpture of William and Gwendolyn Halvosa, sitting up, one can only imagine them propped up on feather pillows, in their marriage bed. Pajama’d figures, shown holding hands, between them the inscription “Set me as a seal upon thine heart for love is strong as death” from the Song of Solomon 8:6. Their tombs stretch out before them, twin “beds” with a single headboard.

Eternal love

Hope Cemetery was established in 1895 and originally contained 53 acres. Since that time it has expanded to a total of 65 acres. Edward P. Adams, a nationally known landscape architect, created the original plan for the cemetery. In the past century, each section of the grounds has emerged after meticulous planning and intricate design, with the approved monuments representing strict architectural and artistic standards. The cemetery was created with an eye to attractiveness, ease of maintenance, and the provision of a unique opportunity for families to honor their loved ones.

While the cemetery has an seemingly infinite array of unique headstones, there is a uniform feel to the grounds because every single one of the monuments and crypts is carved from Barre Gray Granite. Custom carved stones are expensive, so many of the cemetery’s headstones are traditional, but among the more standardized markers visitors will find the amusing, the curious, the inspiring, the sentimental, and outright masterpieces.

A 1/2 scale replica of race car #61 celebrates local driver Joey Laquerre, Jr, who died in a 1991 snowmobile mishap.

Among the more unusual, and distinctly non-traditional, monuments is this race car, a half-size replica of race car #61, designed to celebrate local driver Joey Laquerre, Jr, who died in a 1991 snowmobile mishap. This is followed by a plane, captured angled in flight.

A bi-plane banks sharply on its way to Cloud Nine
Brusa monument: The Dying Man

The stones represent the carvers, the artisans, themselves.

“The Dying Man” is stone artisan Louis Brusa’s own grave, a strange and evocative portrait of the carver in the arms of his wife, slipping into the afterlife. Brusa died in 1937 to silicosis, an illness that plagued stonecarvers and was which was caused by breathing in stone particles in the air at the quarries. In 1930, then modern ventilation equipment elimated that health hazard from the quarry workplace.

Brusa was the creator of one of Hope Cemetery’s most striking monuments, the stone known as the “Bored Angel,” also known as the “Sitting Angel”. Near life-sized, she sits, resting, between columns, her legs crossed, head balanced on her chin, wings flowing to the back of the stone. her look is pensive, thoughtful, perhaps bored as some suggest. We can’t help wondering what, or who, she is waiting for. or remembering.

Louis Brusa

Just as the monument are unique, so too are the numerous mausoleums “museum worthy.” All are fashioned of that hard gray granite, the angles sharp and precise, the columns immaculately rounded, the stained glass windows impeccably fashioned, and the bas reliefs, sometimes in bronze, the equal of what might be found in any world class museum.

Rock of Ages and Barre’s granite quarries lie southeast of Barre, Vermont (I-89, exit 7), and the Granite Sculptures of Hope Cemetery are set across a rolling hillside just off the main road in downtown Barr. The perfect time to view this outdoor memorial sculpture garden is in the autumn, on a fall foliage vacation tour, when nature bathes the hillsides in colors, a fitting backdrop for the vibrant work of these Barre stonecutters.

The best (or most intriguing) of Hope Cemetery:

CALCAGNI: Towering colonnade memorial with an exquisite hand-carved angel centered betweed two four-colum sections. Note the symetry, the perfection of the horizontal lines in the structure of this piece.
ZORZI: A softly curved hand places a bouquet of flowers over the oval inscripted area; the flowers seem suspened over air, a space meticulously hollowed out to create that aura of dimension.
BONAZZI-SULLIVAN: This mausoleum, created with sharp angles and perfect symmetry, is soften by its bronze door, a panel lavishly inscribe with the figure of a woman, head bowed to her arms, perhaps weeping, beneath carved boughs.
BONAZZI-SULLIVAN: A close-up of the figure reveals the sharpness of pine needle clusters and pine cones above and behind the figure. From the strands of upswept hair to the drape of her gown, to the oval leaves before her, she lends an element of softness and gentle sorrow to this otherwise austere crypt.
GIUSEPPE DONATI: A bas-relief of a soldier smoking a cigarette; a portrait of his wife or girlfriend floats in a curl of smoke.
MALNATI: Finely carved ribbons and floral work are a delicate shift in style from the many rugged monuments here.
BRUSA: Between stone pillars, this angel sits, head in hands, waiting. Just sitting? Is she bored?
BRUSA: Brusa carved this angel, with her strong aquiline nose, ragged curls and partially unfurled wings.
CASSAVOY: The corner of this monument reveals a woman outside her country home, pine trees filing the Green Mountain land behind her.
COLUMBO: Stunned rugged cut is tamed by the rolling curves of the scroll and the bursts of wilfowers beneat an assymetrical single column and partial arch
HILLFERTY: This stunning embrace of an angel calls to mind a similar piece by Daniel Chester French, whose "embrace" was inspired by a plume of steam at Yellowstone.
ERIKSON-ANDERSON: A ship sailing the sea; the simplest of wave lines at the top of each section balance the

ELIA CORTI: Cut from a single piece of granite by the brother of the deceased. Outstanding hand carved life size figure. Notice the detail of the clothing, the tools of the granite trade. Background is shell rock finish.
ELIA CORTI: Profile view of this three dimensional figure
SIMONETTA: Sorrowful figure of vieled woman on one knee, holding flowers that droop earthward. Contemplation? Weeping?
SIMONETTA: Close-up of the female figure
SIMONETTA: This oval portrait of the woman buried here is inset into the granite base
EGENIOA CARUSI: Striking bust leaves no doubt of the power and persona of Mr. Carusi. Museum quality work.
HALVOSA: One of the incriptions on the "beds"
The Corrigan stone includes the flight of wild geese
The tall Friberg monument is elegant simplcity. The 'wings" on either side seem poised to protect, or possibly take flight.
The back road at Hope Cemetery is lined with meticulously carved mausoleums, some with ornate bronze doors and gates, others with elegant stained glass windows.
The Cruickshank monument is magnificent simplicity: a rugged cross that stands nearly ten feet high
The Rouleau Mausoleum, with bronze doors, stauary and urns.
The assymetrical Rovelli stone includes a scroll and meticulously detailed spier mums with every delicate petal hand carved.
The Martel monument has a unique inscription on each side of its cube
Two pyramids with details inscriptions and quotes stand behind more traditional monuments at Hope Cemetery
Inscription on one of Vrooman pyramids
Bible quote fills on side of the Vrooman pyramid
The Bettini armchair has an intricate floral design on the face of each arm.
Grenier's love of violin immortalized in this bas relief
ROULEAU: Impeccably carved Mausoleum with ornate doors and guardian statuary
The Entrance to the Hope Cemetery
The Entrance to the Hope Cemetery
CUMMING: A flower garden
CUMMING: A flower garden
MAURICE: Christ kneeling in the garden
SPENCE: Hauntingly pensive
DAVIS: Remembering his love of the sport
PECOR: In the hands of the Lord
In the midst of grandeur, this simple ceramic plaque honors a teacher.
In the midst of grandeur, this simple ceramic plaque honors a teacher.
In downtown Barre, this monument stands as a tribute to the stonecutters of the local quarry
In downtown Barre, this monument stands as a tribute to the stonecutters of the local quarry

Photos by Christine Anne Piesyk



  1. Beautiful. My favorite were Eternal Love and Brusa. Pehaps the person who passed did not lead a very adventerous life, and therefore thier Angel didn’t have much to worry with?
    As I read this I wonder what epitaphs and poetry will be written for me when I am gone.
    Perhaps none. But maybe a red rose bush will be planted.

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