Statue of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as Padre Pio, located in St. Louis Cemetery Number Three on Esplanade Avenue at Bayou St. John. Padre Pio, who was reputed to be in possession of the Stigmata (the wounds of Christ Crucified), lived from 1885 to 1968, and was canonized by John Paul II in 2002.
Padre Pio was a Capuchin friar. The Capuchins had a big presence in New Orleans. Combine that with the large Italian community here, and it's easy to understand how his cult grew strong here. New Orleanians are big believers in the mystical side of Catholicism. The Lourdes, Fatima, and Guadalupe apparitions of the Virgin Mary are all honored here. New Orleans is still one of the hotspots for the Medugorje cult. There are dozens of shrines honoring saints in the metro area, including major shrines dedicated to St. Jude (at Our Lady of Guadalupe on N. Rampart) and St. Ann (at the church in Metairie bearing her name).
Being the extremely Catholic town New Orleans is, it's no surprise to see devotional statues such as this in a Catholic cemetery. This statue of Padre Pio is relatively new, erected in the spring of 2005.
The inscription on the bottom of the statue reads:
"This humble Capuchin friar surprised the world with his life totally dedicated to prayer and to listening to his brothers and sisters. His body, marked by the Stigmata, demonstrated the intimate connection between death and resurrection."
Beyond the basic fact that a statue of Padre Pio in one of New Orleans' oldest cemeteries makes perfect sense, I also choose to feature this photo today because St. Louis Number Three is where Dr. Ashley Morris, a well-loved member of the New Orleans blogging community who passed away last week, will be buried this Friday. Dr. Morris' life was cut tragically short, and he leaves behind a wife and three small children. The family is struggling with the burden of funeral expenses and other financial obligations. Please consider going to the "Remember Ashley Morris" website and tossing a buck or two or ten their way.
The "original" or "old" section of Metairie Cemetery has two parts. The first is the area that fronted Pontchartrain Blvd. (and the New Basin Canal, before the canal became an expressway), and the "race track," which still follows the pattern of the horse race track that occupied the property prior to the construction of the cemetery. The high-value locations in the cemetery were the plots visible from the street (and canal), and the "infield" of the racetrack. The inside street along the infield became known as "Millionaire's Row," because of the elaborate tombs built around the Army of Northern Virginia tumulus that occupies the western end of the infield itself. Of course, these tombs and memorials were all built between 1880 and 1900, so a person or family with the means to buy a modern-day "millionaire's" tomb couldn't fit in with the original ones. When the cemetery opened up the current main gate in the 1950s, they priced the plots near the gate and on that street according to its status as main entrance.
Al Copeland constructed the first tomb in this section a few years back for his family (and, as of today, himself). Others, such as Ruth Fertel (of Ruth's Chris Steak House fame), and Anne Rice (for her late husband, Stan), bought plots down the street a bit from Copeland, where they constructed lovely tombs worthy of the original Millionaire's Row. Just across from the Rice tomb is this one, for the Besthoff family.
The Besthoffs were the "B" in K&B Drugstores. Sidney Besthoff and his partner, Gustave Katz, opened their first store on Canal Street in 1905. The Katz family sold their interest to the Besthoffs in 1954, and the Besthoffs in turn sold the chain to RiteAid in 1997.
The current patriarch of the Besthoff clan, Sidney Besthoff, III, is well-known as a patron of the arts and a lover of sculpture. The Besthoffs financed the Sidney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, in City Park, behind the New Orleans Museum of Art.
The elegant lines and classic design of the Besthoff tomb reflect the good classy reputation of Mr. Besthoff and his family. Each of the four columns is topped with a replica of "King Solomon's Crown." If you take the six-sided star you get from two interlocking triangles (the Star of David) and bend the corners upward, you get this style of pointed crown. There are no names engraved on the tomb as of this writing, so it's unclear if that means it is unused or if the family has chosen to not inscribe details.
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I will be submitting pics here too.