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Exploring Woodlawn's forgotten graves

Everyone is one quick Wikipedia search away from knowing that Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, the Macy family and Joseph Pulitzer are buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Last Sunday, on the first legitimately crisp and windy fall day of the season, Metro tagged along with David Ison, executive director of the 400-acre cemetery, to explore some of the less famous but inherently interesting graves of the more than 310,000 souls who are finally resting there.

“Anybody that ever was somebody, or wanted to be somebody in New York, is buried here,” Ison said. “People that built Manhattan, the Bronx, all of New York City, they’re here, whether it be from a sports, cultural, arts, entrepreneur, finance, they’re here … there is no other cemetery like Woodlawn.”

Frankie Frisch: Known as the “Fordham Flash,” Frisch was born just before the turn of the century in the Bronx, attended Fordham University and went on to play for the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. He was a player-coach, and a commentator in his later years.

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And, although the cemetery knew Frisch was buried there, he doesn’t appear on any maps.

“Even real baseball buffs might not have heard of Frisch,” Ison said. “I (recently) started researching him and started realizing how really great he is … this guy has a lifetime .316. None of the Yankees batted .300 this year. This guy did it every year of his life.”

Louis Marx : A Brooklyn native who would go on to be dubbed the Henry Ford of the toy world, Marx, who died in 1982, is best known for manufacturing “Rock‘em Sock’em Robots” -- the classic two player game aimed at punching the opponent’s robot’s head off.

“It’d be cool to go up there and see a “Rock‘em Sock’em Robot" robot on his gravesite,” Ison said. Alas, just a single American flag and dried leaves were outside of the marble mausoleum, one of 1,400 in the cemetery.

A millionaire by his mid-20s, Marx’s toy company peaked in the 1950s, and he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1955.

George Washington DeLong: A Navy lieutenant and explorer who lead a voyage to find the North Pole through the Bering Strait, financed by New York Herald owner James Gordon Bennett, in 1879. After the ship got stuck in the ice, and ultimately sank, DeLong led his group by foot for three months through Sibera. DeLong and his group, with the exception of two who traveled ahead for help, died of starvation and exposure to the cold in 1881.

DeLong’s widow commissioned a large grave marker of the explorer, who during his career discovered three small, uninhabited islands off the cost of Russia.

Woodlawn is located at Webster Avenue and East 233rd St. in the Bronx, and is accessible by the 4 train and Metro North. Walking tours, and additional data on famous inhabitants, are available through Woodlawn Cemetery’s free mobile app for Android phones. ​

 
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