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Taking a grave look at notable Minnesotans

By Tom Weber

weber@postbulletin.com

Hanging out in graveyards is not everyone's idea of a good time, but for those who want to give it a try, Stew Thornley has written just the book.

"Six Feet Under: A Graveyard Guide to Minnesota" takes the curious and unspooked on a tour of the graves of notable Minnesotans. Thornley has visited dozens of cemeteries in the state, searching out the graves of the famous and infamous alike. "Six Feet Under" shares the fruits of his searches.

In Rochester alone, Thornley takes readers to the graves of Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo, educator Fred King, baseball player Moonlight Graham and the boy hero of the Dakota War, Merton Eastlick.

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Elsewhere in southeastern Minnesota, Thornley writes about the graves of Civil War Gen. William Colvill in Cannon Falls, William Mitchell in Winona, Laura Linton, a scientist and Rochester State Hospital physician buried in Kellogg, and George A. Hormel in Austin.

Farther afield, readers might wish to follow Thornley to the graves of Tiny Tim (Minneapolis), Herb Brooks (Roseville), "Whoopee John" Wilfahrt (New Ulm), Bronko Nagurski (International Falls) and Dan Patch (Savage).

"Cemetery surfing has become an incredibly popular hobby in the past decade," Thornley writes in the introduction to his book. More than a haven for the morbid, Thornley says he views cemeteries as safeguards of a community's history. And, he says, they are usually uncrowded travel destinations. He ought to know; Thornley has visited the grave of every deceased member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Thornley, by the way, already has his own cemetery plot and gravestone in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, he lives in Roseville.

"Six Feet Under" is published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press at $14.95. 1-800-647-7827, www.mnhs.org/mhspress.

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