Oct 132019

Living and traveling in an RV fulltime, or just going about your daily routine, you just never know how many interesting places you’ll discover, and how many more you drive right on past without even knowing they are there. It’s amazing what you can find with just a couple of quick Internet searches.

A good example is Manasota Memorial Park, a cemetery on 53rd Avenue (State Route 70) in Bradenton, Florida. We have spent some time in RV parks in Bradenton and had driven past the cemetery many times but we had no idea how many famous and semi-famous people are interred there. But when I was looking up something else on Google, I came across a notation that wire walker Karl Wallenda is buried there.

The patriarch of the Flying Wallendas, a family of aerialists famous for performing high above amazed audiences, often without a safety net, the Wallendas set the standard by which other high wire acts are judged. Already famous throughout Europe, the Wallendas brought their act to the United States in 1928, drawing large crowds wherever they performed.

As comfortable on a thin cable stretched high in the air as the rest of us are on the ground, Karl Wallenda was known for his amazing death-defying stunts throughout his life. At an age when most men are enjoying retirement and doing nothing more strenuous than playing a round of golf, at age 65 Wallenda did his high-wire walk, known as a skywalk, across the Tallulah Gorge in Georgia, thrilling audiences when he did two headstands as he covered the quarter-mile distance across the gorge.

Four years later, in 1974, Wallenda set a skywalk distance record of 1,800 feet. That record stood until 2008, when his grandson, Rick Wallenda, broke it with a 2,000-foot skywalk.

It should be no surprise that a family who routinely performs such dangerous stunts would not be strangers to tragedy. Over the years many Wallenda family members have been seriously injured or killed during their acts. Fate finally caught up with Karl Wallenda on March 22, 1978, when at age 73, he attempted a wire walk 121 feet above the ground between the twin towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As he fell to his death, the accident was caught on live TV.

Wallenda and several of his family members are all buried together in the same plot at Manasota Memorial Park.

And they are not the only notables buried there. Others include Major League baseball players Johnny Cooney, Walter “Butch” Henline, Bill McKechnie, and Hall of Famer Paul Glee Waner. The cemetery is also the final resting place of circus owner Charles Ringling, U.S. Senator Lathrop Brown, and William Remsburg Grove, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Philippine Insurrection in 1899.

How many cemeteries have you driven past that hold the graves of famous people? You might be surprised what you could find on the Find A Grave website. How many historic sites, homes of famous people, interesting museums, and oddball attractions do you pass by every day, never knowing they are there waiting to be discovered?

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper, book three in Phyllis Entis’ Damien Dickens mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – My mouth is a lot like a magician’s hat. You never know what’s going to come out of it.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

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