A Victorian angel carved on a headstone in Savannah’s historic Bonaventure Cemetery clasps a leafy branch and a crown close to her. The stone’s weathering contrasts with vibrant earth tones, green lichens, and blue sky, creating a colorful, rustic feel.
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This lovely angel resides in historic Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. She marks the graves of Barbara and Louisa Ruckert, the two wives of Francis Joseph (F.J.) Ruckert.
Both F.J. and Barbara were German immigrants.
F.J. emigrated to the United States in 1847, when he was about 15 years old. By 1849, he had moved to Savannah, eventually becoming a prominent saloon keeper.
How and where F.J. and Barbara met is a mystery. However, according to the 1860 census they had married within the past year.
It’s easy to imagine 29 year-old F.J. being quite smitten with his budding bride of 20.
The couple were still together 20 years later, as evidenced by the 1880 census.
But time was not on their side. Although it’s unclear exactly when Barbara died, her death likely occurred sometime in the 1880s.
Enter F.J.’s second wife, Louisa. A Georgia native, Louisa was born in 1839, making her about a year older than Barbara.
Unfortunately, “happily ever after” was not to be, as Louisa died in 1893.
F.J. survived his two wives for about 20 more years. The epitaph inscribed on the gravestone he placed for them reads:
In memory of
Wife of F.J. Ruckert.
His second wife.
This oddly terse epitaph seems quite in opposition to the angel’s sense of reverence for the departed. (Poor Louisa, doomed to play second fiddle forever!)
Perhaps F.J. was a man of few words. However, I suspect financial difficulties were the culprit.
From 1883 to 1891, F.J. was embroiled in a number of civil suits, at least one of which resulted in a financial judgment against him.
I can’t help but wonder if Barbara died sometime between 1880 and 1883, sending F.J. into a tailspin that led to his troubles.
This would explain the brief inscription, as well as the fact that he placed the headstone only after Louisa’s death.
Symbolically, I’d guess that the angel holding a crown over what appears to be a palm branch signifies the angel rewarding Barbara and Louisa with a glorious afterlife of eternal peace.