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Oswald tombstone surfaces in rural Illinois auto museum, stirs Texan's anger

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By Ted Gregory, Chicago Tribune reporter

March 27, 2012

Inside Wayne Lensing's auto museum down a remote road from a body shop, visitors can see Elvis Presley's 1972 Lincoln, the Mayberry squad car from "The Andy Griffith Show" and three Batmobiles.

Right around the corner from Richard Petty's 1960 stock car and a few steps from the Cadillac covered in 120,000 coins, the curious also can view a decidedly different artifact: Lee Harvey Oswald's tombstone.

That's right. The 130-pound gray granite slab that marked the final resting place of one of U.S. history's more notorious figures is about 90 miles northwest of Chicago, on the outskirts of Roscoe, Ill., best known perhaps as race car driver Danica Patrick's hometown.

How the stone got there is a tale of thievery that also involves an electrician who made a startling discovery in a crawl space and a woman who isn't saying much. Whether it remains in the museum may end up as a courtroom drama between Lensing and the owner of a legendary live music club.

The Oswald tombstone saga also underscores the unwavering interest in John F. Kennedy and the hot market for collectibles related to the 35th president. They can draw feverish bidding, exemplified by the successful $6 million offer for a Kennedy-owned yacht at an auction in 1998.

With hundreds of Kennedy items displayed at his museum in rural Winnebago County, Lensing has tapped into that robust appetite, he said.

The name of his museum, Historic Auto Attractions, might not suggest the full range of exhibits, but it fits perfectly with Lensing's main interest as a builder of racing car bodies.

The headstone, he said, is in one of the more popular sections of the museum, "Kennedy Day In Dallas."

"Nobody ever wanted anything to do with it throughout all those years, until they found out the thing got sold," said Lensing, 64. "So now, after 25-30 years … they all come out of the woodwork."

David Card, owner of Poor David's Pub in Dallas, which celebrated 35 years in the business this month, sees a slightly different scenario.

"They screwed us out of it," said Card, 72, who contends that the stone is part of his father's estate. "And I want it back."

The man who killed Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, shattered "Camelot" and marked the onset of a decade of turmoil was buried in Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas. His body was placed there after Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, a native Chicagoan, shot Oswald in a police escort two days after Kennedy's death.

On the four-year anniversary of the assassination, a couple of high school pranksters stole the stone, which features Oswald's name and the dates of his birth and death etched around a cross. Authorities found it in a park in Bartlesville, Okla., and returned it to Marguerite Oswald, the assassin's mother.

Concerned that other thieves and vandals might strike, Marguerite Oswald tucked the stone in her Fort Worth home's crawl space, Card said. A few months after her death in 1981, Card's father and stepmother bought the house.

About four years later, an electrician rooting around in the crawl space found the headstone. Fearful that someone might steal it, Card's father and stepmother hauled the stone to the home of Mrs. Card's sister, who later sent it to her son.

It sat in his garage until the son, Johnny Ragan, died in 2008, David Card said, leaving the tombstone in the hands of Ragan's wife, Holly.

That's where its odyssey gets murky. Card contends the stone is among items his father and stepmother acquired when they bought the home. Lensing maintains that Johnny Ragan's will left it in his wife's possession.

Holly Ragan is less than inclined to discuss the matter publicly.

In a brief phone conversation from Fort Worth, she said Card is spreading "a lot of incorrect information" and "cannot show any proof of ownership." Then she hung up.


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Guest Tom Scully

Mark, why not contact Ted Gregory or the Chi Trib corrections contact and request a correction reading "the man alleged to have shot"? The way it currently stands, you've left yourself open for an accusation of posting an Oswald Bashing article.

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Tom i am open for that. I will just say that this is on Oswald's tombstone not Oawald the person

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Guest Tom Scully

Tom i am open for that. I will just say that this is on Oswald's tombstone not Oawald the person

Mark, I was referring to this, in the article you posted.:

....The man who killed Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, shattered "Camelot" and marked the onset of a decade of turmoil was buried in Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas.....

As a repeatedly accused "Oswald Basher", myself, you can imagine the thrill I get from quoting the excerpt above, from the Tribune article. Show your true colors, Mark, before it is too late. Contact the Chi Trib. and demand a correction!


To report an error ...

Include as much information as possible on where and when the error occurred. Unfortunately, chicagotribune.com cannot acknowledge each e-mail.

Don't end up like, me, Mark, accused of being the son of these volk, and consider that my "offense" certainly was not as blatant as yours in this thread.:


Headstone marking the grave of Alois and Klara ... at the cemetery of Leonding. (Stringer Austria/Reuters / March 30, 2012)

Edited by Tom Scully
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Out of curiosity - whatever happened to the original "alias" marker put on the grave in 1963 to prevent desecration. The one that read "William Bobo"? Anybody know?

"I Led Three Lives - I got three headstones."

hi david...here's nick beef for you, william bobo..??laugh.gif ?

According to JFK researcher Barb Junkkarinen, there is no Nick Beef, at least not a dead one. The gravesite was purchased in 1997 or 1998 for $2000 by a Fort Worth comedian who goes by the stage name Nick Beef. The idea was to get around the cemetery's refusal to direct visitors to Oswald's grave; Oswald seekers could ask for Nick Beef's grave and find Oswald's right next door. The flaw in the plan is that, since no Nick Beef is actually buried, the cemetery has no record of the grave and can't offer directions.

All this remains only a legend because, despite several versions of the story floating around the Web, no one has yet dug up any sign that comedian Nick Beef ever existed.

In late 2005, street art credited to a Nick Beef appeared on construction site billboard walls of New York City, in Greenwich Village. The art was in the form of Haikus 'written' through photos of cemetery headstones."

So there you have it - the strange tale of the death of a man who was never alive

below the original grave stone, on the front of one of Marguerite's book.......and his now side by side with ole nick..and a how to find...b

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No, I believe an actual marker labeled "William Bobo" was placed on Oswald's fresh grave to keep it from being disturbed. For secrecy, I doubt that it was photographed. It's mentioned in Farewell America, chapter 16:

"Who was he, really, this 'two-gun Pete' whose body was so hastily shoved in the ground on November 25, 1963, in a Fort Worth cemetery? Who was he, really, the man who was buried as 'William Bobo'?"


Here's George Bailey's blog, Oswald's Mother: "To avoid a media frenzy at the time, Oswald was buried quietly under the name 'William Bobo.' His final resting place is at Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park in Fort Worth, Texas."


It's referred to backhandedly during the Jim Garrison character's (fictionalized) trial summation in JFK, where Costner speaks of "this victim, Oswald...buried under the name Oswald" (paraphrase). This appears to have been a gaffe, and that logically Costner was intended to say the clownish name Bobo the second time. Oops! Hard to cover in overdubbing.

One used to see the "William Bobo" marker discussed more, but it seems to have faded from memory, a sour joke that couldn't be tied to conspiracy, only to bad taste.

I have, in the past, read that there was a marker made, so that the Bobo name was thus more than just an entry in funeral registers. If so, the marker might have been only one of those small metal namecard holders put up on new graves.

Edited by David Andrews
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Guest Tom Scully

Oswald .Mr. Bobo' .Prior .To Funeral

Windsor Star - Sep 29, 1964

by Paul Groody as told to Preston McGraw

... for Oswald and the porters asked whether it for Oswald, I said, it's for Mr. Bobo." . I ordered for Oswald's funeral, said. william Bobo." The: grave Oswald was...

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