Offbeat

Headstone in Queens, NY Cemetery Holds Secrets To A Vibrant Past

 

Newly constructed Elmhurst Park has been the sight of a most unusual discovery, a mysterious headstone that bears the name Leon Nascimbene.

According to community activist Christina Wilkinson:

“It was put there during the construction of the park. I spoke to the people who worked there, and they said it was a grave.”

Workers believed someone was indeed buried on the site and they did not want to continue construction by disturbing the remains. Still, no one can offer any explanation as to how the headstone got to this site, which until the 1990s was the home of the Elmhurst Gas Tanks.

According to Leon Nascimbene Jr., an 88-year-old doctor who lives in Indiana, his father emigrated from northern Italy in the early 1900s, and is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, which is near the park but not in it.

A successful restaurateur, Leon Nascimbene was well versed in several languages and managed a series of high class eateries in the city before becoming the maitre d’ at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. He died in 1962 and was first buried in a Westchester cemetery and then some six years later transferred (along with the headstone) to the cemetery in Kew Gardens so that it would be a shorter distance for loved ones to travel to the site.

But the plot strangely thickens, as according to the executive director of the cemetery, Bonnie Dixon, the section of Maple Grove Cemetery where he was interred did not permit stone headstones. Her theory about how all this happened is that the headstone might have been inadvertently stored and mixed in with boulders and rocks that were excavated and then sold as filler material to various construction companies.

No one has an answer, but the Parks Department did remove the headstone, and now officials claim that it was actually discovered back in 2005 when the city took over the property. The headstone is currently in storage (safe this time) until family members inform officials as to what they would like to do with the stone.

This is the stuff of urban legends as locals fill in the blanks when no answer can be found. The discovery has impelled family members to search through records in the hopes of uncovering the legends surrounding their own family. There has been an allegedly interesting cast of characters so far, including: a pirate, a man who murdered his way up the social ladder to become a “gentleman of Verona” and a famous heretic.

Perhaps the family should stop there.

Sometimes, family trees have been known to shake out some rotting fruit.

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