Old Town native was inspiration for cemetery angel

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The Goods family has a long history in Alexandria. So long, in fact, that though 80-something Betty Kraft (née Goods) has lived in Delaware since age 19, she still subscribes to the Arlington Catholic Herald. So when she received the Jan. 15 issue of the paper, she was shocked.

"That was our angel, right on the front page," Kraft said.

Catholic Herald production coordinator Stacy Rausch's photo for my story "Beauty in burial: Faith and tradition define the aesthetics of Catholic cemeteries" was the first she had seen of the memorial at St. Mary's Cemetery in Alexandria in decades. Kraft, who lives in a nursing home in Milton, Del., does not own a computer and no longer travels to Alexandria.

All the more reason for her to call the Catholic Herald and provide the angel's history.

Modeled after Kraft's great-aunt, Mildred, who died of the flu in 1918, the life-size angel was commissioned by Goods' mother after she passed away. It was made in Italy and paired with a giant cross made of Vermont granite - a tribute to Goods' father, an English immigrant and Union soldier "who somehow emigrated from Vermont to Alexandria after he was injured."

"Some people over the years have noted the angel's beauty and size," said John Hartchick, manager of St. Mary's Cemetery. "For me, when I enter the cemetery, the statue is like an old friend who welcomes all visitors and generates a feeling of calmness, in peaceful silence. It certainly is the most prominent statue in the entire cemetery. I couldn't imagine the cemetery without such a treasure."

Kraft's connections to Alexandria go back to at least 1787. The Goods were parishioners of St. Mary's Church for generations. The church was where Kraft was baptized, confirmed and married. Her family lived at 228 S. Washington St. - the house where her father was born and eventually died - for 85 years, with shorter stints at several other addresses.

But one of the places Kraft remains most nostalgic about is St. Mary's Cemetery, where many of her family members were laid to rest.

"My family was religious about going to the cemetery with fresh flowers every Saturday," said Kraft.

One memory from when she was 11 years old stands out. She remembers going to St. Mary's Cemetery with her father and sister one Saturday. But this time, her father forgot the key to the front gate, which was then located on South Washington Street. He told the girls to wait for him while he jumped the fence and placed the flowers on the graves. Kraft, who described her younger self as a "daredevil," disobeyed. She tried climbing the fence, only to get pierced by one of the fence's iron spikes. Her sister took her back to the car, where they waited for their father. Instead of scolding Kraft, the girls' typically strict father rushed them home to patch up the injury.

"My father had been in the ambulance service during World War I, so his bathroom was like a drug store," said Kraft.

Kraft calls the scar her "cemetery scar."

For years, that was the only memento Kraft had of St. Mary's Cemetery. Now she has photos and the printed word.

Stoddard can be reached at cstoddard@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015