This blog post is about three years late.
Almost five years ago, I did a blog post regarding jazz vocalist, Helen Carr, which can be found here. It was really only intended as a one-time post to provide some information about a little-remembered vocalist of whom very little information was known - despite the fact that she recorded with many significant jazz artists of the day, and still has two albums in print. That post prompted contact from Helen Carr’s niece, who lives in Washington state. I won’t mention her name here out of respect for her privacy.
During the course of our communications, she very graciously provided me with additional information and assistance regarding her aunt, which prompted me to do further research.
Despite some conflicting information on the Internet, Helen Carr died from complications resulting from cancer at 4:20am on Tuesday, September 20, 1960 at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, which is now part of Mount Sinai West, located two blocks west from Columbus Circle and Central Park South.
She did not die in an automobile accident as has sometimes been reported.
The mortuary handling her burial was the Joseph T. Kennedy Funeral Chapel at 941 Amsterdam Avenue, about seven blocks north of the hospital. For some reason however, arrangements were made to bury Helen Carr at Rose Hill Cemetery in Linden, New Jersey on September 24th. And that is where she is today.
It appears it was left to Helen’s son Gordon to handle all of the funeral arrangements. At the time, Gordon Carr was serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. He himself passed away in New York City in 1988 at the age of 42.
I made a trip out to Rose Hill Cemetery several years ago to see what additional information might be gleaned from the inscription on her gravestone. To this day for example, no record of Helen Carr’s birth can be found, and no one in her family today knows the actual date of her birth. I thought this information might be found on her gravestone.
However, when I got to her plot, I found that there is no gravestone. Helen Carr is buried in an unmarked grave.
So at this point in her life, it appeared that Helen and her son had each other - but it seems that was pretty much it. Consequently, lack of funds for a more elaborate burial may very well have been an issue. Nonetheless in surveying the situation out at the cemetery, I just knew we couldn’t let it stay this way.
I can imagine few things sadder than struggling and scraping to achieve the dreams and ambitions of your youth, only to die at the very young age of 37 - probably alone - and to be buried in a place where there’s nothing to mark your resting place. Surely Helen Carr deserved better than that.
So, I informed Helen’s niece of what I found, and we worked together to do the right thing. Without her support and approval as Helen’s closest living relative, we would never be where we are today.
© 2023 David Nogar All Rights Reserved
David Nogar worked in railroad operations for almost 50 years until retiring from the transportation business in early 2023.