I had a great meeting at the Edith B. Ford Library in Ovid, NY to talk about the possibility of working on an oral history project with former Willard employees. Peter Carroll and I drove up from Ithaca this morning and met with Shannon O’Connor and Monica Kelly who both are doing amazing things at the library. Monica is building an archive of Willard materials, and if anyone who reads this has any records or photographs related to the asylum, you should really contact her.
Afterwards Pete and I drove to the Holy Cross Cemetery on Gilbert Road.
Recently, a local group raised funds and erected a monument to Willard folks who died at the institution and are buried at Holy Cross. I am not exactly sure what the problem is, but some people have objected to it, and so the monument has been covered up since just after it was unveiled. The issue of naming former patients and staff continues to come up, and is still a problem on many levels. I’ll be eager to find out what really happened here.
After leaving Holy Cross, we drove over to the Willard Cemetery which is down the road and across the street from the asylum. This is such an indescribably moving place for me. It was a really beautiful late Winter day and the idea that 5,776 former patients are buried here in unmarked graves always touches me deeply.
The site is very well looked after, and the area around some of the few remaining numbered cast iron markers has recently been cleared of brush.
And it is always nice to see the monument to Lawrence Mocha, who as a patient, dug by hand over 1500 of the graves.
I found out today that I have been invited to Waco, Texas to be the keynote speaker at the annual NAMI Waco dinner and gala. The event is the evening of Thursday, 18th May and if you live anywhere nearby, I would love to meet you.
One of the cool things for me about Madeline’s collection is that she had the negatives for many of her photographs. The museum did a fantastic job in conserving and co-ordinating the negatives with the prints.
When I turned over this particular postcard, I was thrilled to see that she had stayed at the Prince George Hotel in New York City. I have overnighted there twice, and both were memorable. The first time I had just turned 16 and I, along with my friends Jeff, Jay, and Dennis drove to the city from Meadville and were there for a few nights. The other occasion was sometime in the early 1980s. That one got a bit weird.
Tomorrow I drive to Ovid for my talk at the public library. Edith B. Ford Library, 7pm. Hope to see you. I also expect to be there on Friday at noon for a brown bag lunch.