Monday, February 14, 2011
After more than 50 years of separation, detective novelist Raymond Chandler and his wife Cissy were reunited in a Valentine's Day reburial ceremony at Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego.
Detective novelist Raymond Chandler was reunited with his wife Cissy in a Valentine's Day ceremony at Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego. The two were separated by less than a mile for the last 52 years.
Cissy's ashes were kept on a storage shelf in the Cypress View Mausoleum, despite her wish that they be placed with Chandler when he died. Chandler's grave sat just down the hill in the historic San Diego cemetery.
Cissy's wishes were finally honored in a ceremony attended by over seventy-five Chandler friends and fans.
After remarks by honored guests and live music from a Dixieland jazz band, Cissy's ashes were placed in Raymond's gravesite by Rev. Randal Gardner.
Actor Powers Booth played Chandler's wise-cracking private eye Philip Marlowe in a popular TV series. As the featured speaker, Booth entertained the crowd at Mount Hope by reading his favorite Chandler quotes, some of which represent the pulpiest prose in hard-boiled detective fiction.
Examples include: "He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on an angel food cake" and "I was as hollow and as empty as the space between stars."
Loren Latker is a Chandler buff and organized the day's events.
He said Cissy's ashes went unclaimed when Chandler fell into drunken despair after her death in 1954. They were placed on the storage shelf with other unclaimed remains.
Latker and his wife, Dr. Annie Thiel, made it their mission to reunite the two lovers.
Latker explains: "This was a great love that they had and I thought it was very, very important to bring them together again. I mean, someone should be where they could be honored."
An additional grave marker with both Raymond and Cissy's names was placed at the site. It also included a line from Chandler's "The Big Sleep": "Dead men are heavier than broken hearts."
The Chandlers lived in La Jolla during the 1950s and they both died in San Diego county. Cissy was 18 years older than Raymond, though he did not know that when they married. She told him she was only 10 years older. It's still unclear if Chandler ever knew Cissy's real age, though he certainly figured out she was older than she claimed when she began ailing earlier than expected.
If you want to read more about the Chandler marriage, I highly recommend the book "The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved," by Chandler biographer Judith Freeman (who was a guest on These Days on Monday). It's a really engaging look at their relationship, Chandler's work, and Southern California history.