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Marking the spot

Permit me one more sad dad post and I’ll return this blog to its regular schedule of updates (and apologies for lack of updates) on the progress of projects at the Ordinary House.

We spread my dad’s ashes this spring and summer in various places that were meaningful to him. We wanted to have one place we could return to visit, and it was important to me that the presence of his remains be marked in a permanent way. I conjured up a series of overwrought grave markers, heavily laden with symbolism before realizing that simplest solution was probably the best in this case.

I retrieved a piece of leftover Carrara marble from our shed, once a toilet partition at the Wolfpack Club in Raleigh. When my dad renovated that building several years ago, he helped me salvage the stone slabs which I turned into beautiful kitchen countertops at our house in Chapel Hill.  True story, and awesome conversation starter.

chapel hill kitchen

With nothing more than a pencil, an old ball-peen hammer (my dad’s), and a stone chisel that I ordered on the Interwebs, I set to work tracing out the letters F-R-A-N-K on the stone. I started chipping away at the slab with the chisel, tentatively at first, and with increasing force as I got the hang of how the marble split.  The serifs in the ‘F’ were a bit ragged, but the letter looked respectable so I carried on.

grave marker tools

By the time I got to ‘K’ two days later I was pretty proud of how things turned out.  The serifs were crisp and the edges of the letters clean. I stamped dad’s full name and dates in an aluminum bar and attached it to the stone as a finishing touch. I think he would have loved it.

marker placement

The marker and the ashes sit in a peaceful clearing of mountain laurel on my uncle’s land in the mountains of southwest Virginia, not far from where my dad was born.

frank highley

My uncle reports that the marker has been shifted to a different position every time he’s visited it.  We figure either a bear has been rummaging around or else my dad, ever the teaser, is messing with us one last time.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Suzanne Maupin #

    What a lovely memorial. I lost my Dad 7 1/2 years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and thank him for my upbringing. Of course I miss him, too!

    September 17, 2014
  2. mom #

    He is eternally proud.

    September 18, 2014
  3. Zacki Murphy | Zackis Culinary Creations #

    What a beautiful plaque you created by your own hands for such a wonderful influence on your life! I only imagine that your Dad would be very pleased…Grieving is something that we will always experience. It has been 20 years since Dr. Bob passed on and I will love and miss him forever. Zacki Murphy

    September 18, 2014
  4. Laura Connally #

    I can’t think of anything you could have done that would honor your dad better. It is an amazing tribute to the both of you.

    September 18, 2014
  5. That’s not “one more sad post”. Zacki’s quite right in saying that it was beautiful.

    I don’t as a very general rule, deal in cliches…….but I’ve got to say that you should be proud of him and yourself.

    Thank you for the lovely posting…..which I’ve just forwarded to my own father and a few of my friends.

    Quite sincerely,

    David Terry

    September 18, 2014
  6. Leslie #

    Love this…love you. This marker is so appropriate for Frank, first because you used your talent in such a beautiful way, and second, because I know how much he would appreciate the marker’s origin in a restroom! That’s just the sort of thing that would make him chuckle (and I believe he never did tire of pointing out where the kitchen counters came from) Talk about reusing resources!

    September 21, 2014


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