On a recent visit to Louisville's troubled Eastern Cemetery, I noticed a grave I'd somehow always overlooked in my taphophilic expeditions - that of the great champion boxer Rudell Stitch.
Stitch started boxing locally in Kentucky in 1956, and by 1959 he was at Madison Square Garden fighting Gaspar "El Indio" Ortega. At the time of his death in 1960, Stitch ranked second in the world in Welterweight and was well on his way to becoming champion.
Stitch's heroism outside the ring earned him accolades as well, and ultimately led to his demise. In 1959, he saved a man from drowning in the accursed Ohio River, an act for which he was awarded the Carnegie Hero Fund medal of honor.
And the following summer, it happened again - only not with a happy ending. From Wikipedia:
On June 5, 1960, Stitch went fishing with Bud Bruner, Bruner's son, and Charles Oliver, a friend. They were fishing on a rock shelf below the McAlpine Locks and Dam when Oliver slipped. He grabbed Stitch, and they both went into the Ohio River. As he was swimming back to shore, Stitch heard Oliver yelling and went back to get him. Stitch and Oliver, both weighed downed by heavy waders and coats, disappeared in the turbulent water. Their bodies were found by the Coast Guard hours later.
For his tremendous sacrifice, Stitch posthumously received another medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund. Only three other people have received two Carnegie Hero Fund medals.
Given Stitch's importance, I'm surprised he was laid to rest in Eastern Cemetery rather than Cave Hill. It was, as we now know, an unfortunate choice. In 1989 came the sickening revelation that Eastern Cemetery officials had been secretly burying multiple people in the same grave since the 1920s, and that many people's remains were never even interred. What happened to their remains? No one knows.
Stitch's wife, Rosa Mae Huguely, died in 1964 but for some reason her death inscription remains blank. I don't know whether she ended up being buried somewhere else, or whether she's here and nobody ever got around to noting it properly on the stone.
I hereby make a motion that Stitch's body - if, in fact, the Hannibal Lecters that ran this cemetery did indeed bury him as they were supposed to - be moved to another cemetery. One with the prestige befitting a Kentucky hero of his stature, and one with even a modicum of security.
- - JSH