Boneyard Ramble

Crushed in a garbage truck, poisoned by a landlady, crapped out-literally--during a dice game. These and more are buried in this county's cemetaries, and come Halloween night, they'll be dying to get out

Rebar is buried in the American Legion section of Miami Cemetery. Hamilton escaped the electric chair but got twenty years at hard labor, later reduced to five on appeal. "It isn't fair," Hamilton's widowed sister said after the sentence was handed down. "They don't know what a rotten thing John was." Back-from-the-dead potential: High. By all accounts Rebar was a mean, vindictive bully and never let anyone have the last word. And Hamilton, long since out of prison, lives within walking distance of the cemetery.

The City of Miami Cemetery is Dade's oldest, shadiest, and most picturesque graveyard, and also the one closest to breezy Biscayne Bay. Tombstone design, a dying art, is in its full glory here: grave markers in the shape of logs, grave markers in the shape of tiny lambs, grave markers in the shape of pineapples, tremendous, black-granite balls atop Corinthian columns, lifelike busts, intricate monuments, mausoleums with porches and benches, and witty epitaphs. Dr. Paul George, a local historian, gives occasional guided tours of the cemetery, pointing out the graves of Civil War soldiers, the Burdine crypt, the separate Jewish cemetery within the main graveyard, and the final resting place of Miami's founder, Julia Tuttle.

For years the cemetery has also been a favored sleeping spot for people who have nowhere else to sleep, as well as a short cut between North Miami and Second avenues. Despite the presence of an elderly caretaker and his guard dog, after dark the cemetery can be a dangerous place. For Lovina Peggy Pritchard, it was fatal. In January 1974 she was raped, robbed, and beaten to death near the south fence. As many as a dozen people saw her nude body lying amid the headstones, but didn't bother to investigate. "They thought it was a fairly normal thing," a police sergeant suggested at the time. "They often see drunks lying in the cemetery. I guess it's an indication again of the mores of our society." Pritchard, whose murder remains unsolved, is buried at Vista Memorial Gardens in Northwest Dade. Back-from-the-dead potential: Extremely high, for all of Miami Cemetery. Despite the nature of their business, few graveyards have actually witnessed a murder.

Lincoln and Evergreen Memorial parks, 3001 NW 46th St., just north of Miami International Airport and State Road 112

Blacks used to be buried at the back of the City of Miami Cemetery. To save space, they were dug up and moved here. More bodies were moved in from a Lemon City graveyard to make room for a road project. The dead at Lincoln and Evergreen include Artemus Brown, the first blacksmith in Miami; Kelsey Pharr, a former ambassador to Liberia and Miami's first black funeral director; H.E.S. Reeves, father of the current publisher of the Miami Times; Elliot Pieze, a local black radio personality; and D.A. Dorsey, Dade's first black millionaire.

Lincoln, which is still open for business, and Evergreen, now closed, are separated by two residential blocks. Each holds about twenty acres of chipped vaults, set half-above and half-below ground in the New Orleans style. The roots of giant rubber trees have disinterred more than a few of the residents. From the office, crammed with two Coke machines and a half-dozen caskets, to the rows of vaults along the graveyard's narrow, sandy trails outside, space is tight. "You, as a layman, can't see where there's room, but we, as professionals, can," says manager Ellen Johnson.

In life, most of the residents of both cemeteries were poor. Today you can still get planted at Lincoln for as low as $600. "This cemetery is a sort of stopgap between potter's field and some of the more upscale graveyards," Johnson says. "They are dying to get in." On the other hand, she complains about the growing popularity of cremation in the black community, a trend she blames on the Republican administration in Washington. Desegregation in the Sixties, she says, also cut into revenues at what was once Miami's only black graveyard. Although there are several black-owned funeral homes in Dade, Lincoln is still the only minority-owned-and-operated cemetery in the county.

Across the street from Lincoln's gate, a perpetual dice game is in progress, punctuated by loud arguments. Milton Facen would appreciate that. Before moving into Lincoln, Facen had a fascination with dice and lottery tickets, and a rap sheet as long as his gangly arms. In July 1977, Facen was rolling the bones at Tiny's Bar, five blocks from the cemetery. The game broke up after he pulled out a gun and shot James Walter Dukes in the face, knocking him off his crutches. While Facen was out on bond that December awaiting his murder trial, he got into a dice game on the sidewalk in front of his house. One player left, returned with a gun, and shot Facen in the chest. Game over. Back-from-the-dead potential: Extremely high. From Facen's gravesite, if you listen hard and the breeze doesn't blow, you can hear the click of the ivories across Northwest 46th Street.

Dade Memorial and Mount Sinai parks. 1301 Opa-locka Blvd., just off Interstate 95

You may have seen Lazaro Laurencio Alvarez's face on the Post Office wall. If you did, and you perused the wanted poster, you know that "the suspect is an admitted homosexual, a believer in voodoo, and almost always wears a red shirt." Metro detectives finally caught up with Laurencio at the Franklin Correctional Facility in New York, not far from the Canadian border, where he was serving time for weapons possession, under his brother's name. They charged him with killing his roommate when the pair lived together in Hialeah in 1984. Lazaro's brother, Angel Laurencio Alvarez, is buried at Dade Memorial, about twenty yards south of a live oak in section F, just inside the main gate.

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