Harold Washington. Ernie Banks. Al Capone. George Pullman. Everyone knows they’re buried in Chicago, and where. Their lives and achievements are part of the city’s history. Here, though, are a few well-known figures you may be surprised to learn are resting eternally in Chicago or one of its suburbs. Many of them made their names outside Chicago — Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Robert Reed played a TV dad in Hollywood — but a connection to the city brought them home forever.
Beth Aaron Cemetery, Forest Park
Hollywood producer Mike Todd was Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband — and the only one she didn’t divorce. He died in a plane crash in 1958, leading gossips to comment, “How odd of God to take Mike Todd.” Todd was born Avrom Goldbogen and grew up on the Northwest Side, where his father was rabbi of an Orthodox Jewish congregation. The first film he produced, Around the World in 80 Days, won the Oscar for Best Picture. A year later he was dead, leaving a widow and an infant daughter. In 1977, grave robbers broke into Todd’s coffin and removed his charred remains, which had been stuffed into a plastic bag. A few days later, according to a Chicago magazine story, they were discovered “beneath a pile of branches, leaves, and dirt” by future private investigator to the stars Anthony Pellicano.
Westlawn Cemetery, Norridge
Lee Harvey Oswald’s killer was born Jacob Rubenstein near Maxwell Street, where he began his association with organized crime, skipping school to sell horse racing tip sheets. Ruby moved to Dallas in 1947 to get into the pimping business. There, he operated a series of shady night clubs where he plied his patrons with booze and broads. After he died of cancer in 1967 while awaiting a second trial for shooting Oswald, his body was returned home.
Memorial Park Cemetery, Skokie
Robert Reed’s gravestone reads, simply, “Good night, sweet prince.” Reed, who grew up in Highland Park as John Robert Rietz Jr., was a devoted Shakespearean actor and teacher. To his dismay, that’s not how he’s remembered. He’s remembered as prototypical sitcom dad Mike Brady, star of the prototypical family sitcom The Brady Bunch. Reed was so distressed by The Brady Bunch’s fatuousness that he drank off set and wrote angry memos to producer Sherwood Schwartz, demanding scripts be rewritten to make the show more realistic. “If Bob had bombed in Hamlet, he’d have blamed the poor writing,” Schwartz sniped later. In contrast to his TV role as a paterfamilias, Reed was gay. He died in 1992 at age 59 of colon cancer, with complications from HIV.
Saint Mary Catholic Cemetery, Evergreen Park
At 3 feet, 7 inches tall, Garfield Ridge native Eddie Gaedel was the shortest man ever to play Major League Baseball. St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck sent Gaedel to the plate on August 19, 1951, wearing the number ⅛, as a publicity stunt. Gaedel walked on four pitches, was removed for a pinch runner, then banned from baseball. Gaedel next appeared on a baseball field in 1959, when Veeck owned the White Sox. Dressed as a Martian, he was lowered to the field from a helicopter, where he abducted shortstop Luis Aparicio and second baseman Nellie Fox. Gaedel died two years later at age 36 after he was beaten either in or on his way home from a Chicago bowling alley, possibly as a result of a drunken argument. His killers were never identified.
Stephen A. Douglas
Douglas Tomb State Historic Site, Chicago
It’s not the fact that Douglas is buried in Chicago that’s surprising: he lived here when he represented Illinois in the Senate, and his Illinois Central Railroad Act made the city the nation’s rail hub. It’s the Pharaonic nature of his memorial, the grandest in Illinois — even moreso than that of his old rival, Abraham Lincoln. Douglas is entombed inside a 96-foot-tall column at the end of 35th Street on the site of his estate, Oakenwald. On each side is a frieze depicting pioneer life in the state. On each corner are statues of women, labeled Eloquence, Justice, History, and Illinois. On top is a statue of the Little Giant. After Douglas’s statue and portrait were removed from the state capitol because of his views on race and slavery, three South Side state representatives proposed taking down the column, while leaving in place the crypt. It is not, however, on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s list of 41 statues to review for, among other things, “promoting white supremacy.”
Waldheim Cemetery, Forest Park
Peller’s gravestone describes her as a “Beloved Wife, Mother, Grandmother & Talented Actress.” The world did not discover Peller’s acting talent until she was 81 years old, when she was cast in a 1984 ad for Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, as one of three little old ladies who examine a competitor’s burger, and find it lacking in meat. Peller’s line consisted of only three words — “Where’s the beef?” — but she delivered it with such testy indignance that it became a national catchphrase. Walter Mondale used it in a presidential debate to criticize the lack of detail in Gary Hart’s proposals. Wendy’s sales increased by a third. Peller, a Hyde Park resident, only had three years to enjoy her fame, dying in 1987 at the age of 85.
Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago
Ignaz Schwinn’s last name is known worldwide; his first name, not so much. Schwinn was apprenticed to a bicycle maker in his native Germany, but moved to Chicago in 1891 to take advantage of the bicycle craze in the U.S. In 1895, Schwinn founded Arnold Schwinn & Co. with financial backer Adolph Arnold and grew it into the nation’s largest bicycle company, a brand name practically synonymous with its product. Schwinn closed its Chicago operations in the 1980s as a result of labor troubles and declining market share. It is now owned by Pacific Cycle and commands just 2% of the bicycle market share. Ignaz will always be here, though.
Graceland Cemetery, Chicago
The heavyweight boxing champion is buried with his first wife, Etta Duryea Johnson, who shot herself a year into their marriage while the couple was living in what a newspaper described as “a palatial home on Wabash Avenue.” There is a gravestone marked simply “Johnson” in the cemetery, intended as the boxer’s resting place, but Johnson is not buried there; he’s buried at the foot of Etta’s grave located elsewhere on the grounds. Johnson died in a car crash in North Carolina in 1946 at the age of 68 while driving angrily away from a segregated diner that refused to serve him.
The comedian once joked that “I’ve arranged with my executor to be buried in Chicago, because when I die, I want to still remain active politically.” Sahl died on October 26 at his home in California. The disposition of his remains is unknown.