Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hurricane damage in Greenwood Cemetery.

I drive by Greenwood Cemetery almost daily and after Hurricane Irma I was amazed at the amount of tree damage there was in the cemetery. I decided to return to document some of the trees that had snapped like twigs. The first stop was to the four headstones for victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre. This area of the cemetery had been largely spared. As a matter of fact one stone had rainbow balloons, rainbow flowers, a pin wheel and a rainbow colored teddy bear. All the memorial items were pristine. The day before had been Leroy Valentín Fernández' birthday. Clearly the family had come out and colorfully decorated his headstone to mark the occasion. All of the Pulse victim headstones now had color photos that were laminated in plastic and cut into the headstones. The photo of Cory Connell was had outstretched arms as if he were ready to wrestle the world. All memorial items had been removed form his stone, probably in preparation for Hurricane Irma. All 4 stone sat quietly in the shade of a large tree that had weathered the storm fine.

Pam Schwartz and I searched the cemetery for the tree I had seen while driving by the cemetery. Blanche Crews headstone was knocked over by a fallen tree limb. It was wedged back up with fallen branches making it look like the fallen angels had crutches.  Dozens of trees had snapped and branches littered the entire cemetery making it appear wild and overgrown. I settled into a spot near the headstone of Edgar Earl Hitchcock. I of course wondered if he was related to the film maker. Pam quickly did research and found out that Edgar was an important figure in Orlando's medical history. He founded the Pediatric Associates of Orlando in 1939. He was shown in a photo giving the very first polio vaccine shot in Central Florida to a young boy. His wife Ruth died many years after him but her headstone was not in her family plot or perhaps there is just no headstone.

Across the lane from where I was sketching, a family arrived in several cars. Blue and white helium balloons bounced up out of the car behind them. They were visiting the headstone of Richard Marcano Trinidad who had died on August 19, 2016. He had died at the tender age of 36. His stone noted that he was a Stealers fan and the epitaph read..."For the best daddy in the world. We will never forget you...from your kids." An Orlando Sentinel article reported that police had been dispatched to a home near UCF, where they found Trinidad critically injured. His 36 year old girlfriend was on the scene. I could not find any further reports about how or why Richard had died. The family released the dozen or so blue and white balloons and they silently rose into the sky.

Near the fallen tree I was sketching was the headstone for Harry P. Leu (1884-1977) and his wife Mary (1903-1986) of Leu Gardens fame. Their two granite slabs lying side by side, were pristine except for a few leaves. The Harry P. Leu historic home however has suffered damage from a huge tree limb that crashed into the roof, exposing the Leu bedroom to rain and wind damage. The ceilings and floor boards are soaked. Leu Gardens has closed indefinitely. Pam Schwartz, the Orange County Regional History Center curator went to the historic home to offer advice on preservation societies who might be able to help as well as FEMA contacts. 

The History Center off site storage facility had suffered damage when a roof access panel was blown loose and it gouged holes in the roofing as the heavy metal lid was hurled by the high winds, causing leaks over the historic collection. I was with Pam when she found the soaked warehouse and helped in removing soaked ceiling panels and now useless archival cardboard boxes. It look hours of work and in the emergency the sketchbook was ignored. Even though the floor were dried and artifacts were lifted to be  dried out off the floor, it was then discovered that the walls of the warehouse are fulled with mold. Now an effort needs to be made to save the collection form that mold which is inside the walls up to 10 feet high. The History Center is replacing all the inner walls in an effort to  protect and preserve Orlando's History.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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