The Wasserburger monument is one of the more memorable in Forest Lawn, but we have no idea why the Wasserburger's designed it the way they did, and what it meant to them. Made by J. F. Bloom & Co. of Omaha, fashioned from Balfour pink granite which is no longer available, it's become a local legend. Josiah Wasserburger purchased the monument in 1938, 18 years before he and his wife died, and it cost a staggering $3,500. This amount of money spent during the depression, in 2012 dollars would be approximately $60,000. It's curious that they took such care to plan their memorial almost 20 years before their deaths, and put so much thought into it.
Josiah was a manager for Household Finance here in Omaha. He died in 1956, and Alma died just five days later; they had no children, so much of their history died when they did. They and their monument are one of the enjoyable mysteries that keep me interested in local history.
The motto of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the USA
The second stanza of the poem "A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It's said that the seated figure represents Jesus (see the closeup below), but this isn't a correct interpretation and there is no evidence to back it up. Josiah and Alma left no record of what they were thinking when they designed their memorial. A key clue is that their monument has no biblical text on it, and because of this I feel the statue is more related to the other allegorical figures that have been created as monuments in other cemeteries.
I believe it was meant to mirror similar statues like Lorado Taft's splendid and haunting sculptural figure for the Dexter Graves plot in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, called Eternal Silence. It is also extremely similar to the Clover Adams memorial sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Washington D.C. Both of these sculptures pre-date the Wasserburger monument by at least 30 years, in the case of the Lorado Taft work, and nearly 50 years in the case of the Adams monument. An excellent history of the fascinating story behind the Adams monument can be found at this link, as well as the story of an unauthorized copy of the statue and where it is today. It's a great article and worth the time it takes to read it.
Closeup of the figure's face.
A visitor has placed what looks like a spray of lilacs in the figure's hand. This gives it a curiously piquant look, and makes it strangely more human-looking.