A lifelike statue of a Victorian girl, little Gracie Watson, sits with a tree stump entwined in ivy and a stuffed toy tucked lovingly in her lap. This black and white poster pays tribute to little Gracie, still remembered and adored by those who never knew her.
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Always a visitor favorite at Bonaventure Cemetery, Little Gracie has become its most popular monument, now that the Bird Girl statue (featured on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) resides at the Telfair Academy.
A stone tablet nearby tells her story:
Little Gracie Watson was born in 1883, the only child of her parents. Her father was manager of the Pulaski House, one of Savannah’s leading hotels, where the beautiful and charming little girl was a favorite with the guests. Two days before Easter in April 1889, Gracie died of pneumonia at the age of six. In 1890, when the rising sculptor, John Walz, moved to Savannah, he carved from a photograph this life-sized, delicately detailed marble statue, which for almost a century has captured the interest of all passersby.
Leaving Little Gracie presents became a tradition, especially around Christmas.
I happened to take this photo several days after Christmas, and you can see that someone has lovingly tucked a stuffed toy in her lap.
How they accomplished that is a bit of a mystery, because an iron fence surrounds her plot in order to protect her from damage.
Cemetery staff, perhaps? A pole-vaulter?
Few cemetery statues actually bear the likeness of the departed person, which I think partially explains Gracie’s appeal.
She looks so real, you can imagine joining her for a tea party or a game of patty-cake.
The tree stump she sits with represents life cut short, while the ivy most likely signifies undying affection.