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Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

Grave Sightings: Frank and Forrest Mars

Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

Every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.

Do you like M&Ms? Indulge in the occasional Milky Way? Satisfy your hunger with a Snickers? Appreciating any of those sweet treats is an appropriate way to pay your respects to Frank and Forrest Mars, pioneers of one of the world's largest candy brands.

Frank Mars—born in Hancock, Minnesota, in 1882—contracted polio at a young age. Confined to a wheelchair, the young Mars spent a lot of time in the house with his mother, Alva, who taught him how to hand dip chocolate.

After he graduated high school, Mars decided to become a candy wholesaler. He married Ethel Kissack, and they had a son, Forrest, in 1904. Unfortunately, familial bliss wouldn’t last long. Mars and Ethel divorced, and Forrest was sent to live with Ethel’s parents in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Meanwhile, Frank kept plugging along at the candy business. After a string of serious setbacks, including bankruptcy and failed businesses in Seattle and Tacoma, he had finally found local success with the Mar-O-Bar, a confection made with caramel, nuts, and chocolate.

Stacy Conradt

The business was struggling along until Frank reunited with his son in 1923. Forrest had gone to college and was working as a traveling salesman, and that summer, he and a crew of men were working in the Chicago area, putting up posters for Camel cigarettes. Forrest managed to get arrested for plastering the advertisements over municipal signs and he called his father for bail.

It was the beginning of a profitable, if tumultuous, relationship. Forrest later recalled that he and his father were enjoying a snack at a soda fountain and discussing the business when he looked down at his ice cream drink. “Why don’t you put this chocolate malted drink in a candy bar?” he suggested. Within weeks, Frank came up with a bar centered around chocolate malt nougat, the Milky Way. “He put some caramel on top of it, and some chocolate around it - not very good chocolate, he was buying cheap chocolate - but that damn thing sold. No advertising,” Forrest said in a rare (exceedingly rare—the Mars family is notoriously private) interview.

It was a resounding success, which only led to arguments on how to run the business. Eventually, Forrest told Frank to “Stick the business up his ass. If he didn't want to give me one third right then, I said I'm leaving. He said leave, so I left.” He went to England and started his own branch of the business there, establishing the hugely popular Mars Bars and getting the inspiration for M&Ms, which he would eventually take back to the States.

Frank died suddenly in 1934, the victim of kidney failure. Forrest did not return home to attend the funeral. Frank was originally buried at Milky Way Farms, the family farm in Tennessee. His widow later had Frank and the mausoleum moved to Chicago, and finally to Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

There were many more ups and downs and family disagreements, but Forrest later became chairman of Mars, Inc., in 1959, and merged his company—Food Manufacturers, Inc., home to products like Uncle Ben’s Rice—in 1964.

The father-and-son reunion that didn’t happen during Frank and Forrest’s lifetimes eventually happened in death. When Forrest’s wife, Audrey, died in 1989, he had her interred at the family mauseoleum in Minneapolis. He joined her there in 1999 when he passed away at the age of 95.

Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.

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History
The Curse on Shakespeare's Grave
Ben Pruchnie, Getty Images
Ben Pruchnie, Getty Images

It's a pretty good practice to avoid incurring the wrath of the dead in general, but if there's a ghost you really don't want to upset, it's probably William Shakespeare's. Just think of the many inventive ways he killed people in his plays. That's why the curse on his grave at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-Upon-Avon should be taken seriously:

"Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones."

It's thought that the warning was penned by Shakespeare himself. In his day, it was common for bodies to be exhumed for research purposes or even just to make room for more burials, and the Bard did not want that to happen to his remains. So far, his warning seems to have worked. Even when the grave received some repairs in 2008, workers said the stones would not actually be moved and the bones certainly would not be disturbed. 

It has recently been suggested that Shakespeare's remains be exhumed and studied using the same techniques that allowed us to learn more about King Richard III, so we may soon find out how effective that curse really is. Professor Francis Thackeray from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who wants to exhume the bones, seems to be pushing his luck. "We could possibly get around [the curse] by at least exposing the bones and doing high-resolution, non-destructive laser surface scanning for forensic analyses without moving a single bone," he said. "Besides, Shakespeare said nothing about teeth in that epitaph."

Will it be enough to avoid the Bard's wrath? Only time will tell.

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politics
Grave Sightings: Hubert Humphrey
Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

With the state of politics lately, it’s hard to imagine a generous act of kindness from one political rival to another. But if Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon were capable of burying the hatchet, there’s hope for anyone.

Humphrey, a senator from Minnesota, ran for president several times. In 1952, he lost the Democratic nomination to Adlai Stevenson. In 1960, of course, he faced a charismatic young senator from Massachusetts named Jack Kennedy. In 1968, Humphrey, who was vice president at the time, came closest to the presidency—but Nixon triumphed by a little more than 500,000 popular votes.


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Though he graciously admitted defeat and pledged to help the new president-elect, Humphrey wasn’t shy about criticizing Nixon. Just 10 months after Nixon took office, Humphrey stated that the administration had done “poorly—very poorly” overall, citing the increase in interest rates and the cost of living. Nixon and his team, Humphrey said, had “forgotten the people it said it would remember.” He was still making his opinions known four years after the election, turning his eye to Vietnam. “Had I been elected, we would now be out of that war,” he told the press on January 10, 1972.


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The Watergate scandal broke later that year, and Humphrey no doubt felt validated. He mounted another unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1972, but lost the nomination to George McGovern. Humphrey briefly considered trying one more time in 1976, but ultimately nixed the idea. "It's ridiculous — and the one thing I don't need at this stage in my life is to be ridiculous," he said. The public didn’t know it at the time but the politician had been battling bladder cancer for several years. By August 1977, the situation had become terminal, and Humphrey was aware that his days were numbered.

When he knew he had just a few weeks left to live, Humphrey did something that would stun both Republicans and Democrats: He called former rival Richard Nixon and invited him to his upcoming funeral. He knew that Nixon had been depressed and isolated in his political exile, and despite the Watergate scandal and the historical bad blood, he wanted Nixon to have a place of honor at the ceremony. Humphrey knew his death would give the former president a plausible reason to return to Washington, and told Nixon to say he was there at the personal request of Hubert Humphrey if anyone questioned his motives.

Humphrey died on January 13, 1978—and when the funeral was held a few days later, Nixon did, indeed, attend. He stayed out of the Washington limelight, emerging right before the ceremony—to audible gasps. Humphrey’s gracious act must have been on Nixon’s mind when he listened to Vice President Walter Mondale sing the fallen senator’s praises: “He taught us all how to hope, and how to love, how to win and how to lose. He taught us how to live, and finally he taught us how to die.”

Nixon wasn’t the only former foe whom Humphrey had mended fences with. Barry Goldwater, who ran against Humphrey in 1964, had this to say:

“I served with him in the Senate, I ran against him in campaigns, I debated with him, I argued with him. But I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a friendship as much as the one that existed between the two of us. I know it may sound strange to people who see in Hubert a liberal and who see in me a conservative, that the two of us could ever get together; but I enjoyed more good laughs, more good advice, more sound counsel from him that I have from most anyone I have been associated with in this business of trying to be a senator.”

After the ceremony in D.C., Humphrey was buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. His wife, Muriel, joined him there when she died 20 years later.

Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.

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