Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Doo Dah with the departed
This Jeanie was a bleached blonde.
But, she still portrayed the wife of Stephen C. Foster; the woman who inspired the godfather of pop music in 1854 to write the song, "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair."
The impersonator, Mary Kraszczak, was among the entertainment Saturday during a Doo Dah Days festival beside Foster’s grave at the historic Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville section.
The event coincided with the songwriter’s arrival to this world on July 4, 1826, in this part of the city - its oldest neighborhood.
It’s not every day that a birthday party was held in a cemetery and more than 1,000 people showed up to celebrate. Bands performed, while vendors sold burgers and fries.
Foster would write at least 286 songs before he died at age 34 in New York with 35 cents in his pocket. Little did he know that high school and college marching bands would be performing his music to this day. The Northerner's “My Old Kentucky Home” even became that Southern state’s official song.
Foster's body has been keeping good company in the cemetery, where members of such local big-money families as the Scaifes and Mellons have been laid to rest.
Established in 1844, the 300-acre burial grounds became Pittsburgh’s first public park and the sixth rural cemetery built in the United States. It was modeled after the “fashionable romantic landscapes of English parks,” the cemetery Web site indicates.
Also buried there under an impressive grave marker was the lesser-known George Hogg, a successful businessman who lived in an area of Pittsburgh that was once known as Allegheny City. So was Alfred L Pearson, who earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.
Foster, however, was the star last weekend, especially in the eyes of the woman who pretended to be his mother, Eliza Clayland Tomlinson Foster.
Mrs. Foster missed the fireworks when she went into labor on the 50th anniversary of our nation’s birth.
“But little Stevie was worth it,” said the actress, Rose Gitzen.