Rocky Ansell's Personal Quest To Honor Those Among Us Who Are Now Gone

Over 500 People Have Been Remembered On Rocky Ansell's Find A Grave Site  Rocky Ansell, volunteering at the George Ashby Museum. (Journa...


Over 500 People Have Been Remembered On Rocky Ansell's Find A Grave Site 

Rocky Ansell, volunteering at the George Ashby Museum. (Journal photo) 

After a vigorous effort saving lives and property in the Copper Valley for decades as the local fire chief, Rocky Ansell has moved on to another self-driven community project. He saves the vital memories of other people's lives. We caught up with Rocky at the George I. Ashby Museum near his home in Copper Center on Friday, June 4th, where he was working as a volunteer museum interpreter. There, we asked about his work on a website called "Find A Grave."

OBITUARIES WERE TESTAMENTS
"I remember as a kid growing up. The owners of the local newspapers would help the families write the obituaries. They wrote the person's story," Rocky said, speaking of his days as a child in Kansas. "I hate to use the word 'eloquent.' But that's what I feel. The obituaries were testaments to that individual."

Then things shifted. The obituaries lost a lot of their impact. "I remember the local news down in Kansas started charging for obituaries. It used to be the obituaries were free. They now charge so much per word. Obituaries have gotten shorter and shorter."

Today, Rocky Ansell dedicates himself to trying to reverse that trend, by honoring the memories of those who have passed on in our community, as part of a national effort by many like-minded people to retain America's history. 




IT MORPHED INTO A CALLING 
It started with his own family history and his relatives who had died. But then..."Kind of like a lot of other things, it's morphed into a calling. I've probably entered over 500 [people]. The last couple of years, even before the pandemic, I was noticing a lot of people were not having traditional funerals. If there is no funeral, and they're cremated –  there's not going to be a grave marker."

In effect, those people could then be "lost" forever as individuals. "I felt this was a way to preserve some record that person existed."


Rocky's efforts with 'Find A Grave' mean a lot to local families, and to people who live in the Copper Valley especially, where cremations are extremely common.

"It was long before this recent pandemic – more and more people were going the route of cremation. There's not a headstone. The ashes get spread over the Wrangell Mountains. Wherever the family decides to conduct that little ceremony. And then... it's gone."

AT ONE TIME THOSE PEOPLE WERE REAL
Making a tribute for the people who lived in our region is important. "Everything I do I want to do out of respect for these people," Rocky told the Journal. "At one time these people were real. They lived here. They're related to people. I can memorialize their gravestones." And he can also memorialize old friends and acquaintances even if they don't have headstones.




To read about the local people who are remembered and celebrated in Rocky Ansell's 'Find A Grave' work, see his virtual cemetery of "Copper River Trailblazers & Homesteaders." It has 86 memorials dedicated to "those stalwart residents of the Copper River Valley who do not have a traditional grave and/or headstone."

The very first person on Rocky's list is George Ingram Ashby, the man who owned Copper Center Lodge and gave his name to the George I. Ashby Museum – where Rocky was volunteering when this interview took place. 



ROCKY SENT THE FOLLOWING POEM

THE ANCESTOR

Your tombstone stands among the rest;
neglected and alone
The name and date are chiseled out
on polished, marbled stone
It reaches out to all who care
It is too late to mourn
You did not know that I'd exist
You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you
in flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse
entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
one hundred years ago
Spreads out among the ones you left
who would have loved you so.
I wonder if you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot,
and come to visit you.

-Author Walter Butler Palmer (1906)
-FAG Memorial# 87759950me

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