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SAPANTA ......In my travels I had visited a cemetery or two, but I never could say I enjoyed one. Well, that all changed in Sapanta with the Merry Cemetery. It was inspiring to learn how the vision of one man, Stan Ion Patras, 1908 - 1977, changed the lives and deaths of people in this village forever. The cemetery had a small forest of brightly colored wooden headstones. Somewhere I heard the number 800. And, in the tradition of Maramures, all of the tombstones were hand carved. But, unlike most of the woodcarvings anywhere else in the region, these were also brightly painted. Each had a scene from the life of the person resting there. You learned about their jobs, and if you could read Romanian, you could read a humorous verse about them. No where else have I ever seen such an entertaining cemetery where you left feeling that you had learned about the people buried there.

Patras wrote a lot of the poems for the headboards, including his own before he died. Long after his death, his wit and humor are still enjoyed by so many visitors. Here's just one example:

Now I will tell you a good one.
I kind of liked the plum tuica.
With my friends at the pub,
I used to forget what I came for.

Fortunately, the tradition continued after his death by the man's apprentices. However, those who can read Romanian claimed that the poetry was not as witty. The art work was still great. And, it depicted several ways to die including auto accident and electrocution.

MARTIN

Copyright 2009 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.