Wednesday, June 4, 2008

There's crape on the door

Judge Nathaniel Riddick died on December 30th, 1882, just two days before the new year. Judge Riddick was a prominent politician and lawyer in his time, and it was his home -- Riddick's Folly -- that served as headquarters to the Union Army during its occupation of Suffolk in the Civil War. His funeral, near the height of the Victorian era, was likely a grand affair to which the Who's-Who of the area would have been expected, if not obliged to attend.

126 years later, that event, which was as much public display as private mourning, may once again lead the community from the doors of Riddick's Folly to the unassuming tombstone where Judge Riddick rests forevermore.

We'd like to recreate that funeral as a way to educate our community about mourning practices in the late-19th century. Death and dying were both intimate experiences to be shared mainly with family prior to the Civil War. The war's legacy was an end to the "Good Death" -- dying at home in your bed surrounded by family. Later years yielded greater, more elaborate displays of grief perhaps as a reaction to the anonymous death that was the fate of many Civil War soldiers.

The current-day citizens of Suffolk would be invited to participate in the funeral of one of Suffolk's favorite sons, allowing them to not only learn about mourning customs of the time, but to also share a role in this living exhibit (if you'll forgive the pun). Of course, we want to be as respectful as possible to Judge Riddick's descendants, and those with whom we've spoken so far have been both appreciative of the interest and supportive of the idea. There's a lot of organizing to do, but we're well on our way. Keep reading for more information soon.

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