The hunt for Lee Harvey Oswald still leads to Fort Worth, the only hometown he ever had.
But 55 years after reporters were recruited as pallbearers for lack of anyone else at his burial, more visitors than ever now come seeking his grave.
With the help of GPS satellites, tourists from around the world come to Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery out of curiosity, looking for the simple pink stone “Oswald” and the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
Last May, when a British comedian and historian came searching, he was surprised what else he found.
“Beside the road, there was a stone marked ‘HIDELL,’ ” said John Martin of Appleton, England.
“That was his alias. Was it a code? Why would they put that stone there?”
It’s gone now. The Houston-based parent company that owns Shannon Rose Hill removed the Hidell marker last week, after a New York writer contacted local news outlets asking about the headstone.
The marker using Oswald’s fake name — Alek Hidell — “was not appropriate,” according to a statement by Houston-based Dignity Memorial, an affiliate of Service Corporation International.
The owner of the marker or plot was not identified. But it was placed near a curb where it might have helped direct passersby to Oswald’s grave.
New York writer Victoria Balfour saw it March 11 and emailed: “I was startled to see this marker named Hidell about 12 paces from Oswald’s grave. … I am wondering if it’s a legit marker or if it’s a prank.”
After cemetery workers dug it up Tuesday, local tour guide Freda Dillard of DFW Historical Tours said she first saw it and pointed it out in April 2017. She brings groups about eight times a month, she said.
“I just couldn’t believe the people at the cemetery didn’t know about it,” Balfour said. (Her guest column was published last week on star-telegram.com).
“My guess is they are inundated by visitors and conspiracy theorists.”
Well — yes.
Company officials declined comment.
But you can imagine that on behalf of all the families to bury loved ones there since 1928, the managers struggle to maintain some degree of solemnity.
When the cemetery opened as Rose Hill Burial Park on what was then called the Fort Worth-Dallas Pike, it was described as “one of nature’s beauty spots … wooded and rolling, high and dry, overlooking the surrounding area for miles.”
(It was also one hill over from Top O’ Hill Terrace, the Vegas-style gambling casino that is now a fundamental Baptist college in Arlington. Today, the two sites are often destinations for “outlaw tours.”)
Martin, the British comedian, was on one of Dillard’s tours.
In Dallas, the group went to Dealey Plaza, the grassy knoll and also took a “Bonnie & Clyde tour” of sites connected to Depression-era outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.
In Fort Worth, “We saw the hotel where he stayed,” Martin said, referring to what is now the Hilton Fort Worth and adjacent JFK Tribute statue.
At Rose Hill, he said he hunted a long time before he found the Oswald family plot, where Lee Harvey was dug up by court order, identified and reburied in 1981 alongside his mother, Marguerite.
The next headstone over is for a “Nick Beef.”
That’s another story. New York writer Patric Abedin, a former Arlington resident, has said he also uses that name and that he bought that plot in 1975 and placed the marker in 1996.
In 2013, Abedin told The New York Times he bought the plot next to Oswald for sentimental reasons. When Kennedy was assassinated on Elm Street in Dallas in 1963, Abedin was a first-grader at Waverly Park Elementary in Fort Worth.
“It meant something to me in life,” he was quoted as saying. “It was a place I could go and feel comfortable.”
Now, cemetery workers won’t give directions to that grave or Oswald’s.