Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Charles F. Grave / Ithaca


I have known for a long time now that Charles F. was buried in Ithaca.


The photo of his grave is the last image that I need for the book Ilan Stavans and I are doing for SUNY Press.


Ilan’s essay is beyond amazing, and I am really happy with the section of the book that has the two of us talking about our feelings about Charles and to the contents of his suitcase.  / Searching online I was able to find the location of his grave, but I had no map of the cemetery by which to determine the exact location.  This morning I went to the Ithaca Town Hall where a very nice and helpful person gave me the information that I needed.


There are two sections of the cemetery that are reserved for the burial of Jewish folks.  When I saw these graves I knew I was getting close.


Charles is buried at the most Southeastern corner of the cemetery.


The fact that (by New York State law) I have to obscure the surnames of the patients is really pissing me off these days.  Charles died in 1950 and I think it continues to stigmatize patients to deny who they were.  I hear so regularly from family members seeking information about relatives who lived at Willard, and I feel terrible that I can’t help out.  New York State law supercedes Federal HIPAA laws about what can be revealed to families and other interested parties.  This can only be changed through the legislature, and I am really interested in finding a legislator in Albany to introduce a bill to bring New York State in line with Federal law (the Feds put the cap at 50 years after death, and for New York State the cap is forever).   To cover myself here I put these leaves over his name but IT JUST FEELS SO WRONG.


Here’s a view from another angle.  Much more pleasing that the previous one showing the buildings in the background.


Peter Carroll came along to shoot some B-Roll as I worked today.  We are slowly moving ahead with the documentary on the project.  It’s still very early stages, but we are hoping to put up a Kickstarter appeal sometime in the late Summer in order to be able to produce a short piece which we can then preview to funders.

Thanks for following along everyone.  I am posting almost daily to the @willardsuitcases Instagram account, so if you haven’t checked it out, please do.

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Doris said, on 18/05/2019 at 9:27 am

    I am touched by your dedication to these people who would otherwise be forgotten. Thanks Jon.

  2. karen miller said, on 18/05/2019 at 9:38 am


  3. Katie said, on 18/05/2019 at 9:57 am

    I find it quite poignant that you have sought out and photographed this named gravesite for one of the Willard patients.

  4. Patty Krysiak said, on 18/05/2019 at 12:36 pm

    What a beautiful, peaceful-looking cemetery! I’ve always liked cemeteries. Even as a kid I enjoyed wandering through old cemeteries wondering about the lives of the people who are interred.
    Thank you for your work. The people of Willard deserve to be commemorated, and you’ve done just that. Well done!

  5. Ann Forster said, on 26/08/2019 at 5:36 pm

    I agree, it’s nonsensical. How that law and the omnibus came into play fascinates me. Does anyone know which particular legislators introduced and supported it? I tried to locate that information, going backward, but was unable to find anything. A new bill should be introduced, to allow family access to the records. The State’s position is shameful.

    • joncrispin said, on 27/08/2019 at 9:01 am

      Hi Ann, (I am replying to your comments in order of recent to earliest.) I hope it is not too confusing. I totally agree on a new bill being needed and would love to talk to you about it. Information on the original bill and how frustrating it was for people who pushed for it is available through the Innmates of Willard Site Lin Stuhler is amazing. Are you in New York State? Let’s chat sometime. Thanks again, Jon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: