Original publish date: December 14, 2013
It was Monday November 24, 1963 and recently widowed Marina and the rest of the family were watching the John F. Kennedy funeral in a Fort Worth, Texas motel. Marina wanted to keep watching it, but the family said it was time to leave for nearby Rose Hill Cemetery. When they arrived, the small party drove straight to the chapel, expecting that their loved one would be buried in a religious service. But the chapel was empty. Instead, she was told to expect a brief service at the gravesite.
The 22-year-old widow made her way to section 17 of Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park, a lonely, sparsely populated plot of Texas real estate where even the grass struggled to survive. A hole was waiting there with a handful of empty chairs waiting alongside. Only a few people were there to watch as the casket was lowered into the ground. Reporters who were covering the funeral carried the casket from the hearse to the graveside. Reporters? The casket contained the remains of 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald, the murderer of President John F. Kennedy and Dallas police officer J.D. Tippitt.
The dead man’s wife, Marina, felt humiliated that her husband was denied a religious ceremony. She was ashamed that no friends were present to act as pallbearers for her beloved Lee. Instead reporters, there for a story, were pressed into service to carry the dead man to his final resting place. This sad Texas spectacle was in sharp contrast to the ceremony taking place at the same time some 35 miles away in Dallas. The funeral of Officer Tippit at the Laurel Land Memorial Park cemetery included posthumous awards of valor and accolades from all over the nation. The lavish state funeral of President John F. Kennedy in full swing some 1,360 miles away in the Nation’s Capitol included accolades from all over the world.
Oswald’s funeral time, date and location were kept a closely guarded secret during its preparations in order to keep the morbidly curious away. To further insure that the services would not be disturbed, Oswald’s funeral was held at the same time as JFK’s because the family and officials from the funeral home knew that at that time everyone would be attending the president’s funeral.
On December 16, 2010, the original coffin of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald sold for $87,469 (which includes a 20 percent buyers’ fee) in an online auction at a California auction house. The starter bid was $1,000 and bidding ended when one of two top buyers dropped out around 10 p.m. The auction described the macabre relic as: “Original pine coffin that held the body of Lee Harvey Oswald from his burial on 25 November 1963 until his exhumation on 4 October 1981. At the time, conspiracy theories swirled over who was actually buried in the coffin.The coffin’s wood exterior was very soft from moisture damage, and had dark areas of discoloration. Visible along the sides were the tarnished original metallic ornamentation. The interior of the casket also showed splotchy dark discoloration and moisture-softening of the wood. A portion of the original fabric that lined the top of the casket had fallen upon the decomposed remains. Oswald’s remains were transported back to Rose Hill Cemetery for re-interment in a new casket and vault. The original deteriorated coffin offered here, measures 80″ long x 24″ deep, with the thickness of the sides of the casket approximately one inch. Sitting on wood crate which measures 84″ x 24″. Accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity by Funeral Director Allen Baumgardner, who assisted at the original embalming of Lee Harvey Oswald and later purchased the Miller Funeral Home along with all of its property.”
Because water had got into a cracked burial vault and damaged the original coffin, the funeral home swapped it with the family for a new one and Oswald’s body was reburied in another casket. The original casket was heavily water damaged and whats left of its metal ornamentation is rusted and parts of it, including the roof, have rotted extensively. Its satin lining has long since disintegrated but the coffin still contains shredded newspapers and other padding material left from its manufacture. Baumgardner, one of the funeral directors who participated in that autopsy kept the casket because no one seemed interested in it at the time, The Dallas Morning News reported. Baumgardner was a 21-year-old funeral home assistant when Oswald was shot to death, “I’ve never seen so many security police and FBI and Secret Service and news media just everywhere,” he recalled. The mortician kept it in storage in his Fort Worth funeral home for three decades. But Baumgardner, now 68, decided last month to sell it. “None of us is going to be around forever,” he said.
The auction also included instruments used to embalm Oswald, the 1963 funeral home log book, ( On Page 525 are the details of the original $573.50 mortuary fee and $135 cemetery plot. Oswald’s coffin cost $300, and the leaky vault that enclosed it was $200), an Easter card he sent to his brother and a section of the car seat the President Kennedy was sitting on when he was shot described as “A chilling relic…section of the seat upon which he and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy sat…Light blue leather seat section which composed the main portion of the bench seat and clearly shows rust-colored staining consistent with long-dried blood…Accompanied by a letter of provenance on White House letterhead by White House Technical Service Rep. F. Vaughn Ferguson. Ferguson, whose involvement with the limousine before and after the shooting is well-documented, writes in part: “…Four days after the assassination the White House upholsterer and I removed this leather at the White House. The light blue leather is from the center of the rear seat…The spots on the leather are the dried blood of our beloved President John F. Kennedy.” The first draft of Oswald’s death certificate is for sale too. It was redone after the justice of the peace hastily wrote “Shot by Jack Rubenstein” in the space listing “How Injury Occurred” and someone pointed out that Ruby had not yet been convicted of the killing.
Although the auction is over and your chance to participate is lost, never fear. For if you want a chance to experience any left over “bad vibes” of Lee Harvey Oswald, you can always travel to Ft. Worth and try to locate the final resting place of the enigmatic Marine assassin. Just keep in mind, its not easy. True Oswald is buried in section 17 of east Ft. Worth’s Rose Hill cemetery (7301 East Lancaster Avenue) once you get there, don’t expect any help from the cemetery staff. The workers are not allowed to divulge the location of Oswald’s grave. The general manager at Rose Hill confirms that curiosity-seekers are not told how to find his grave at the sprawling cemetery, out of respect for his relatives. Another reason for the secrecy might be found in the current marker atop the dead assassin’s body that is inscribed simply “Oswald.” The current rose colored granite stone replaces the stolen original tombstone, which gave Oswald’s full name and birth-death dates.
If you find Oswald’s marker, you’d never realize that his controversial mother Marguerite, who died Jan. 17, 1981, is buried next to him on the left in an unmarked grave. However, the first thing you’ll notice is the stone marker that rests just inches to the left of Oswald inscribed simply “Nick Beef”. For years, veteran journalists, scholars and members of the entertainment world who have studied the assassination, knew nothing about the “Nick Beef” mystery. Who is it? What does it mean? Why is it so close to the Oswald stone? No-one knew.
The mysterious stone was first noticed in 1998 and soon after word of the “Nick Beef” stone got out prompting would be grave hunters to ask the staff for directions to that stone, knowing that was the surest way to find Oswald’s. But nowadays, the staff is wise to that ploy and they won’t tell people where Nick Beef’s grave is either. But the question remains, who is / was Nick Beef?
On holidays, when the cemetery is covered with flowers from loved ones, both of these plots typically remain barren. However, they remain free of ornamentation for two very different reasons. It can be argued that no single gravesite in the country holds more secrets than Lee Harvey Oswald’s. Whatever secrets Oswald knew, he certainly took them to the grave with him. But Nick Beef’s grave holds a secret too: it’s empty. Ask the black suits at the cemetery office, and they’ll tell you that Nick Beef is the stage name of a comedian who bought the plot and had a headstone with that name installed. As part of his act, he reportedly told fans that if they wanted to find Oswald’s grave at Rose Hill…just ask for Nick Beef and you’ll find Oswald.
However, the employees can’t tell you anymore about Nick Beef than I’ve told you here, in fact they will often teasingly mislead you by claiming that Mr. Beef is a disc jockey. If you find the Oswald grave and its “Beef” neighbor on your own and return to the office to confront the workers who routinely tell visitors asking for Mr. Beef’s grave by saying “They have no record of any such person”, the office workers explain their dissemination of misinformation with , “I did not lie. You asked me where Nick Beef is buried, and I told you truthfully that no Nick Beef is buried here. That stone marks a cenotaph (A monument erected in honor of a dead person whose remains lie elsewhere).”
Internet searches and computerized property records suggest only one vague possibility – that a “Nick Beef” might have lived in a high-rise apartment complex in New York during the mid to late 1990s. The spot is in Manhattan’s trendy West Village, known for its nightspots, and comedy clubs. But there is no phone number for a “Nick Beef,” and several residents of the complex said they do not remember a neighbor by such a name. However, the Comedy Cellar, one of New York’s most established stage-comedy clubs, whose featured entertainers have included Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, is located only a block away. But, after that, the “Nick Beef” trail turns cold.
After you have found Lee Harvey Oswald’s Gravesite you can exit Rose Hill Memorial Burial Park and head west on Lancaster Avenue. A couple blocks before you reach the 820 Freeway, on the right side of the road, in the Urban Village of Handley, you will find The Ozzie Rabbit Lodge. Ozzie Rabbit was Oswald’s nickname while in the army.
If you’re looking for a bright spot in the Oswald family tragedy, believe it or not, a few can be found. His brother, Robert, lives in Wichita Falls Texas and according to the funeral home paid the total cost of $710.00 for the burial of his brother. He believes that Lee was guilty of JFK’s murder and blames his mother as the main reason his brother went bad. Robert has lived a model life and has made a few media appearances recently. Despite the stigma of being the brother of an assassin, he maintains a quiet dignity that has earned him the admiration of many. Lee’s half-brother John is deceased.
Lee’s daughters, June and Rachael took the name of their stepfather, Ken Porter, in 1965. This helped them to maintain a slight anonymity while growing up in Texas. According to a 1995 article, June keeps a low profile and uses her married name in an effort to protect her own children from the controversy. She manages to keep a sense of humor and mentioned that she enjoyed the “second spitter” episode of Seinfeld, which parodies the Single Bullet theory. In 1995 it was reported that Rachael worked for seven years as a waitress while putting herself through nursing school. She seemed to be the more conspiracy-oriented of the two daughters and enjoyed meeting Oliver Stone during the making of his film “JFK”.
Marina, the widow of Lee Harvey Oswald, has changed her beliefs about the assassination several times over the years and is often described as being influenced by whatever book or theory is in vogue at the time. In 1965 she married Kenneth Jess Porter, with whom she has a grown son. The couple divorced on October 11, 1974. She has lived in Dallas for many years, and has appeared in numerous documentaries on the Kennedy assassination. In recent years she has expressed the view that Oswald was innocent in the assassination, though she has never recanted any of her Warren Commission testimony. In April 1996 she wrote : “At the time of the assassination of this great president whom I loved, I was misled by the “evidence” presented to me by government authorities and I assisted in the conviction of Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin. From the new information now available, I am now convinced that he was an FBI informant and believe that he did not kill President Kennedy.”
John Kennedy’s assassination was the death of innocence. After that, the shock, sorrow and overwhelming bewilderment of unexpected celebrity death no longer surprised us. JFK’s was the first American tragedy covered from start to finish by every available media, but most especially television. During that extended weekend of unabated grief, the main players visited us in our living rooms. We could feel the events as they unfolded as if they were happening to our friends, neighbors, or relatives. We would find out in short order that it was sadly all too true. And we would never trust again