October 24, 2005

He threw himself a funeral every year

The tombstone of Francis J. Moriarty is engraved, "It's better than waiting in line"

Francis J. Moriarty, known as Turk to his friends, because he loved Wild Turkey, decided on his tombstone at Mt. Benedict Cemetery in West Roxbury, well before he died. He

threw himself a funeral there each year near the end of his life. (He died at 73 in 1985.) It was always an affair to remember.

''We made a plywood coffin we'd strap to the top of Billy Hunt's '66 Rambler American -- the car was worth about six cents -- and we'd drive to the cemetery," recalls Richie Polin, a friend of Turk. ''We'd put the bottles on top of the grave -- the headstone was already there. There'd be maybe a hundred of us. Turk would watch from a distance to see who came."

Some of the women who attended actually cried, despite the fact they knew Turk was lurking nearby. (According to Polin, Turk was a bank robber who did hard time for this pastime, later an employee of the Boston Housing Authority, and a poet whose talent was inversely proportional to the amount of bourbon he consumed.)

The whole motley crew would then repair to the now-defunct Sydney's on Green Street in Jamaica Plain -- a bar so named for the leviathan actor Sydney Greenstreet -- to continue the festivities. Perpetual gadfly Dapper O'Neil called the rite ''a most impressive ceremony," according to Jerry Burke.

From Enchanting Tales by Sam Allis in the Boston Globe

Posted by Jill Fallon at October 24, 2005 9:58 PM | Permalink