Garden of Heavenly Rest Cemetery- Avenue S & 17th Street
Zora Neale Hurston died on January 28, 1960. After friends from near and far raised over $600 in her memory, Zora's funeral was held at the Peek Funeral Chapel (Heritage Trail Marker #7) on February 7, 1960. Zora was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in this (then segregated) cemetery. In the early 1970s, Alice Walker, author of "The Color Purple", located the grave which she determined to be Zora's, and so began Zora's second rise from near obscurity to fame.
Alice Walker Rediscovers Zora
"We are a people. A people do not throw their geniuses away. If they do, it is our duty as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children. If necessary, bone by bone"-Alice Walker, author, 1976.
In 1973, Alice Walker visited Eatonville, Florida, fully expecting it to be just as Zora had described. As part of her pilgrimage, she discovered that Zora was buried in Fort Pierce. Walker's search for Zora's gravesite is described in the last chapter of her story, Looking for Zora,"I Love Myself When I Am Laughing... and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: a Zora Neale Hurston Reader (1979)", in which she describes searching the (then overgrown) cemetery with the help of a funeral home employee named Rosalee. Finally Walker stopped and decided to "ask" Zora for help.
"'Zora!' I yell, as loud as I can, 'are you out there?'"
Rosalee: "If she is, I sho hope she don't answer you. If she do, I'm gone."
"'Zora!' I call again. 'I'm here. Are you?"
"If she is,"grumbles Rosalee, "I hope she'll keep it to herself."
"'Zora!' Then I start fussing with her. 'I hope you don't think I'm going to stand out here all day, with these snakes watching me and these ants having a field day. In fact, I'm going to call you just one or two more times... Zora!' And my foot sinks into a hole. I look down. I am standing in a sunken rectangle that is about six feet long and about three or four feet wide."
Thus Walker concluded that this was Zora's gravesite, since it was the only one located near the center of the cemetery. She then ordered the headstone that now identifies the final resting place of the "Genius of the South." Within a few years, an important biography of Zora, written by Robert Hemenway, Zora Neale Hurston: A literary biography, was published, and Zora's books began to reappear in the popular market. In the 1980s, members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority placed the large slab on top of the gravesite. This has become a popular place for visitors to leave offerings and messages in honor of Zora Neale Hurston.
Patrick Duval, age 83 (2003), standing next to Zora's official gravesite, is a hero to historians, for after Zora's death, he personally rescued her papers (including much of her last book) from a burning trash heap.
He first met Zora when he was a student at Lincoln Park Academy and his class traveled to Bethune-Cookman College, in Daytona Beach, where Zora briefly taught and lived aboard a boat (probably 1934). Duval later became a friend of Zora's and engaged in many lively debates with her. He remembers discussing with Zora a controversial article she wrote about the alleged purchase of black votes, and her response to him: "Are you angry that I wrote it or angry because it's true?"
"I will remember you all in my good thoughts, and I ask you kindly to do the same for me. Not only just me. You who play the zig-zag lightning of power over the world, with the grumbling thunder in your wake, think kindly of those who walk in the dust. And you who walk in humble places, think kindly too, of others. There has been no proof in the world so far that you would be less arrogant if you held the lever of power in your hands. Let us all be kissing friends. Consider that with tolerance and patience, we godly demons may breed a noble world in a few hundred generations or so. Maybe all of us who do not have the good fortune to meet or meet again, in this world, will meet at a barbeque."---Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)