In good hands

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The statue on the grave of Osa Wilson, at Woodland Cemetery in Ironton, was the subject of an anonymous restoration at some point in the past several weeks. Cemetery officials said they were not aware of who replaced the figure’s hands, which had long been missing due to the actions of vandals.
(The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Cemetery statue gets an anonymous restoration of damage

A woman who has been buried in Woodland Cemetery in Ironton for more than a century received an early Christmas gift this year.

About a month ago, cemetery staff noticed that the statue of a woman on the grave of Osa Wilson looked different – with it now sporting two new hands, replacing ones which had been lost many years ago to vandals.

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As to had done the work, they said they had no idea, speculating it may have been family members, or the deed of an anonymous benefactor.

But they received no notification of the work being done.

Abby Kuehne, of Ironton, portrays Osa Wilson in the 2019 Lawrence County Historical Society Cemetery Walk at Woodland Cemetery. The statue’s hands were missing at that point. (The Ironton Tribune | File photo | Mark Shaffer)

Abby Kuehne, who has portrayed Wilson in the cemetery walk the past several years, was surprised to hear of the restoration of the hands of the statue at the gravesite.

She pointed out that the original statue held a candelabra, which the restoration did not include.

Wilson, who died in 1911 at the age of 34, is the subject of several urban legends.

The mother of six was said to have died after being knocked down a flight of stairs at her Chestnut Street home in Ironton after being slapped in the face by a supposedly abusive spouse while pregnant.

However, in a 2011 Tribune history story by reporter Benita Heath disputed those stories, pointing out that Wilson’s cause of death was listed in her death certificate as “neuritis, with colitis as the contributing factor” after a month of illness.

And there is no record that her widow, Scott Wilson, listed as “the sorrowing husband” in her death certificate was ever questioned or any suspicion of foul play existed regarding her death.

But, based on the misconceptions in the urban legends, the statue has been the subject of paranormal stories, claiming a handmark appears on its face, that snow never holds on its belly (representing the unborn child) and that its robe appears to flow at night.

Whatever their belief on the matters, spectators at the cemetery walk consider it a favorite and it is always a popular stop in the annual event.

This would not be the first time a prominent grave has been restored anonymously at the cemetery. 

Two years ago, a similar thing happened at the mausoleum of Antoinette Sherpatosky Peters, the Imperial Russian Ballet dancer who is interred with her husband, an Ironton native.

Two porcelain portraits, which had once adorned the mausoleum, had been damaged by vandals and scarred with BB gun shots and had been taken down by cemetery staff.

But in 2021, restored versions of the portraits had been created and mounted by an anonymous restorer.

Cemetery officials, in this case, also did not know the identity of who did the work, and family was unlikely, as Peters had no children.

The Tribune was notified of the Peters mausoleum restoration and told to see the improvements in an anonymous letter, which had the return address of “Woodland spirits,” sent shortly after the portraits were replaced.

Whether Wilson’s statue was restored by a different individual or the same “Woodland Spirits” benefactor remains a mystery until someone comes forward, cemetery staff said.