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29 Unforgettable Epitaphs

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In a way, the epitaphs on gravestones are your last words to the world—and they’re literally written in stone. From political to humorous (and sometimes both), here are 29 people who had more to say than “RIP” or “Beloved wife.”

1. Leonard Matlovich

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1975, Leonard Matlovich, a Purple Heart-decorated member of the Air Force, became the first gay member of the U.S. military to publicly out himself. His fight to keep his military job made the cover of Time magazine in 1975. When he found out he had AIDS in 1986, Matlovich wrote his own epitaph and arranged to be buried at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Both became a reality when he died two years later.

2. Gabriel Williams

Find a Grave // Dustin Oliver

Presumably, Gabe Williams' family decided to combine his two biggest passions on his tombstone: Gymnastics and rock music.

3. Kay

Family Tree Magazine // Dan Convery

A reddit user tested the recipe and was unimpressed. Your mileage may vary.

4. Andrew J. Olszak

FindAGrave // Michael Cannon

There's no more permanent way to stick it to your family after you're gone than to engrave your disappointment on your tombstone.

5. Rodney Dangerfield

Stacy Conradt

Apparently comedian Rodney Dangerfield wanted to leave 'em laughing.

6. Billy Wilder

Stacy Conradt

And writer/filmmaker/producer/artist Billy Wilder had the same idea.

7. George Spencer Millet

FindAGrave.com // Susan Kane

While it was once commonplace to put cause of death on gravestones, this particular demise was anything but run-of-the-mill.

8. Nathaniel Grigsby

ActiveRain.com

According to Snopes, there's quite the story behind Grigsby's final words. As Abraham Lincoln's friend and extended family member (his brother married Lincoln's sister), Grigsby blamed the Democratic party for his death and, indeed, the entire Civil War. Twenty years after Lincoln was assassinated, Grigsby dictated his own epitaph as he lay on his deathbed and asked one of his sons to make sure the inscription was carried out.

9. Robert Clay Allison

Plazak,WikimediaCommons // CC BY-SA 3.0

As one of the most accomplished gunslingers in the Old West, Allison killed his fair share of people. According to his friends, though, Allison was a gentleman—he never killed a man who didn't have it coming.

10. Russell Larsen

FindAGrave // Candice xo

The saying on Larsen's grave is apparently well-known to many cowboys—but not many cowboys have immortalized it on their tombstones.

11. Bill Kugle

FindAGrave // Doug Zabel

Bill Kugle was a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Can you guess which party he belonged to?

12. Mary Dolencie

FindAGrave // eobfindagrave

Word to the wise: Don't anger cat ladies. When Mary Dolencie died in 1985, she wanted the world to know how angry she was at Whaling Port, her housing association. She believed her neighbors had it in for her, complaining about the number of cats she had and how she attracted pigeons to the area by feeding them. To get revenge, she had a curse engraved on her tombstone—but the people of Whaling Port say that so far, even decades later, things seem to be just fine.

13. Shakespeare

David Jones, Wikimedia Commons //CC BY 2.0

Shakespeare's epitaph was thought to have been written by the Bard himself to prevent his corpse from being dug up for research purposes, which was commonplace at the time. So far, his warning seems to have worked.

14. Cecil O’Dell Eads

FindAGrave // magjo

15. Herman Harband

FindAGrave says that this stone is actually a cenotaph—a memorial of sorts— not an actual gravestone. After exacting revenge on his wife, Harband arranged to be buried elsewhere. Upon his death, his wife sold the empty plot and had the cenotaph removed. It's supposedly still in storage at Beth David Memorial Gardens in Hollywood, Florida.

16. Fran Thatcher


FindAGrave // Number1

17. Leslie Nielsen

'

FindAGrave// Traci Barbour

The famous funnyman had his epitaph planned for close to 15 years. He died in 2010, but said in a 1996 interview that he intended to put "Let 'er rip" on his gravestone. There's also a bench dedicated to Nielsen nearby; it's inscribed with "Sit down whenever you can."

18. Bette Davis

FindAGrave // Jim Tipton

As the story goes, after Bette Davis worked with director Joseph Mankiewicz on All About Eve, he mentioned that "She did it the hard way" would someday make an appropriate epitaph for her. When Davis died in 1989, she took him up on the suggestion.

19. Jerry Bibb Balisok

FindAGrave // Graveaddiction

Jerry Bibb Balisok's epitaph is the story of a heartbroken mother. Balisok disappeared in 1977, two weeks before he was to stand trial for writing bad checks. After not hearing from her son for two years, Marjorie Balisok, his mother, became convinced that she had spotted her son's body in a picture of aftermath of the Jonestown massacre. The State Department and the FBI investigated Jerry Balisok and concluded that he never left the United States, but Marjorie was positive her son was dead, and furious that she was unable to cash in on his insurance money since there was no body.

Unfortunately, Marjorie died in 1983—seven years before her son would resurface under an assumed name. He was convicted of attempted murder and given a 20-year prison sentence in 1993.

20. Anonymous Democrat

Reddit // wiskerbiscuts

A cemetery worker stumbled across this political gem last year and posted it on Reddit. Users were quick to point out that the stone should say "principles."

21. Edith Tina Barlow

FindAGrave // gr8hobby

Short, though not terribly sweet.

22. Michael Leroy Luther

FindAGrave // Papaduck34

"Game Over" is a pretty fitting last phrase for an arcade game addict—and Michael Luther was so into this particular diversion that his sister had this distinctive stone designed when he died in 2007.

23. Dorothy Parker

You'd expect nothing less than a tongue-in-cheek epitaph from the acid pen of Dorothy Parker. She once suggested "Excuse my dust" as her final goodbye, and also "This is on me." 

24. Merv Griffin

Stacy Conradt

Legendary talk show host Merv Griffin wrote his own epitaph before his death, choosing this one over "I told you I was sick," a favorite amongst epitaph jokesters. People magazine reports that he chose "Stay tuned," but "I will not be right back..." must have won out before engraving was finalized.

25. Sir Jeffery Hudson

FindAGrave // ChristianFernandez

To be clear, Sir Jeffery Hudson didn't die from being baked in a pie. It was apparently just his claim to fame—one that follows him even more than 300 years after his death.

26. Helen Herczberg Gawara

FindAGrave// Neil

You can hear about Gawara's experience in this interview from the United States Holocaust Museum.

27. Dee Dee Ramone

FindAGrave // A.J. Marik

The Ramones rocker's epitaph is both laid-back and practical at the same time.

28. Lawrence L. Cook, Jr.

FindAGrave.com // Lawrence L Cook 3rd

Mr. Cook passed away in 2004 after "a long illness," and his wife died in 1999, so his epitaph is likely meant to make visitors laugh—not provide a recap of his last moments.

29. Jack Lemmon

Stacy Conradt

Before his death, Academy Award winner Jack Lemmon was able to specify that he wanted his tombstone to be his final marquee. His instructions were followed to the letter—not even dates of birth or death accompany the simple statement.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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