THE PINK ELEPHANT HEADSTONE
The following was clipped from the Hamlet News Messenger. (date unknown)
Q. I have heard that there is a grave in Richmond County which has a headstone made in the form of a pink elephant.
Is this true? Where is it located? What is the story behind such a monument?
A. The headstone is in Mary Love Cemetery in Hamlet, on the grave of Joseph W. Mitchell of Rockwell, in Rowan County,
who died May 14, 1969 at the age of 65. His widow, the former Miss Elizabeth Beacham, a Hamlet native who now lives
in Salisbury, told us that the elephant-shaped headstone was one of her husband's last wishes, and that she considers
it "one of the major accomplishments of my life" that she was able to comply with it. It seems that Mitchell
was a staunch conservative, and the elephant - long the symbol of the Republican party - was "his personal symbol
Mrs. Mitchell was referred by a friend to the famed sculptor and stonecutter Cohen Ludwig, who at the time was
engaged in putting the finishing touches on the massive Confederate Memorial stone relief of Gen. Robert E. Lee
on his horse Traveler which is etched onto the northwest face of Stone Mountain, Ga., near Atlanta. She
explained to him that she needed a cemetery monument in the shape of a standing elephant with its trunk lifted;
he expressed some doubt that he could do the sculpture in less than a year's time, but promised to get back in
touch with her and show her some sketches.
As it turned out, Ludwig finished the sculpture in three months; he told Mrs. Mitchell, "once I could see a
pinpoint of daylight under the elephant's belly, finishing the job became an obsession with me, and I worked
night and day on it." She said, "The monument was as perfect as if I had dreamed it." It was erected on
Memorial Day 1970, little more than a year after Mitchell's death. Sadly, Ludwig died of brain cancer soon
after that; the elephant was his last major work. Mrs. Mitchell told us that the cemetery caretaker has told
her that people have come from all over the U. S. to see it - and that, "Judging from the amount of litter I
find around the grave, I can believe it."
The elephant is pink, she said, because pink granite is the hardest of all stone and better able to withstand age.
(Submitted by Diana Holland Faust)
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December 14, 2001