The Witty Epitaphs of Key West Cemetery

Mar 4, 2017 2 comments

A cemetery might seem like an odd destination on a tourist circuit, but the one in Key West, Florida, has a lot of history and some rather interesting tombs.

This 19-acre graveyard was founded in 1847 after a terrible hurricane in October 1846 washed away the old cemetery that was located near the coast. After this, the new cemetery was built on the highest point in Key West, and the old graves that survived the hurricane were moved here. Because of the high water table, most of the graves lie above the ground in vault like structures giving the cemetery the appearance of a small town with narrow streets and rows of whitewashed rectangular boxes for houses. The cemetery’s only living residents are chickens and iguanas.


Photo credit: Cali4beach/Flickr

One of Key West cemetery’s most famous graves is the one belonging to B.P. "Pearl" Roberts, whose inscription humorously declares "I told you I was sick". Another tombstone, that of Gloria M. Russel, states, "I'm just resting my eyes".

The marker on the gravestone of Thomas Romer, a 19th century privateer from the Bahamas, attests that he was a “good citizen” for 65 years of his 108-year life. Edwina Lariz was a “devoted fan of Julio Iglesias” and Martha M. Perez was "the best flan maker", as their respective tombstones testify.

The gravestone of Alan Dale Willcox says, "If you're reading this, you desperately need a hobby".

Another states, "I'll always remember my so-called friends".

"I always dreamed of owning a small place in Key West," reads yet another.

The epitaph on Georgio Aversa’s gravestone says, "Jesus Christ, These People Are Horrible." The words were chosen by his wife, who said that her husband often used to say that when they went out together on social gatherings.

Each of these one-liners on the rest of the graves must also have their own story we don’t know about.

The cemetery’s most famous residents is “Sloppy” Joe Russell (1889-1941), who was Ernest Hemingway’s fishing guide and a famous bartender whose “Sloppy Joe's Bar”, now Captain Tony's Saloon, is well known throughout Key West. The graveyard also has a memorial to victims of the USS Maine, that sank in Havana Harbor in the late 1800's and a section devoted to those who died during the Cuban Revolution. Florida’s first millionaire, William Curry, is also buried here. There are also graves for 3 Yorkshire terriers and a pet deer named Elfina.

Another strange grave is that of Archibald John Sheldon Yates, whose headstone is adorned with a statue of naked women with her hands tied behind her back.


Photo credit: Peter Dutton/Flickr


Photo credit: Stephen Weppler/Flickr


Photo credit: Jeff Kern/Flickr


Photo credit: Cayobo/Flickr


Photo credit:


Photo credit: Stephen Weppler/Flickr

Sources: WLRN / Florida Rambler / Cult of Weird / Phil Philcox, Beverly Boe / Road Trippers


  1. I desperately need a hobby

  2. Evidently so do I as that was a must-visit on our one and only trip to Key West!


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