The Day Hemingway Died
We’ve talked about Hemingway’s fascinating life the last couple of days, so—as morbid as it might be—I thought we’d talk about his death today.
Hemingway’s funeral was private and, at the time, his death was still a mystery.
His wife, and even the authorities, said the death was accidental. But people were suspicious because of Papa’s widely known abuse of alcohol and his battles with depression. Two days prior to his death, he had returned from the Mayo Clinic for treatment for “hypertension.”
Here’s how an article in The New York Times on July 5, 1961 described Hemingway’s funeral and the mystery surrounding his death.
Services Slated for Hemingway
Ketchum, Idaho, July 4 (UPI)–Ernest Hemingway will be buried under a blanket of red roses; beside one of his closest friends.
The grave was dug today in Ketchum Cemetery beside that of Taylor Williams, a hunting and fishing guide who was Mr. Hemingway’s frequent companion for twenty years. He died in 1959.
A simple graveside service was planned. The time was left uncertain pending the arrival of Mr. Hemingway’s son Patrick, who has been hunting in Africa. The services may be held tomorrow.
The Rev. Robert J. Waldemann, Roman Catholic pastor of St. Charles Church in Hailey, Idaho, and of Our Lady of the Snows in Ketchum, will conduct the services.
Father Waldemann said that there would be no formal Catholic services. He said there would be no mass and probably no rosary, but he said that the matter of accident or suicide had no bearing on the funeral.
“We pass no judgement on that and asked no questions,” he said.
No Official Decision
There still was no official decision–and there may never be–as to whether the death of the writer early Sunday from the blast of a 12-gauge shotgun had been an accident or suicide.
However, the fact that Mr. Hemingway had been divorced would bar him from a Catholic Church funeral. Catholic sources said there was nothing improper in a Catholic priest’s saying graveside prayers. Mr. Hemingway was divorced three times.
His son John said today that Mr. Hemingway was “at one time” a Catholic but that “he actually was not” at the time of his death. He said Mr. Hemingway had been converted to Catholicism at the time of his marriage to his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer.
The body of the Nobel Prize-winning author lay in a funeral home today in Hailey, Idaho, about twelve miles from here. A hearse will return it to Ketchum for the funeral but there will be no procession.
At the request of the family, the services will be private, attended only by the writer’s fourth wife, Mary, his three sons, other relatives and close friends.
Ray McGoldrick, the coroner and proprietor of the funeral home, said that Mr. Hemingway would be dressed casually in a sport coat and slacks.
Mr. McGoldrick said that Mr. Hemingway would be buried at morning services either tomorrow, Thursday or Friday.
Several years later, Mary Hemingway would admit that his death was a suicide. Years of alcohol abuse, depression, and physical injuries had finally taken their toll.
At the very least, Hemingway was still surrounded by people who loved him when he passed away. Compare that with Fitzgerald’s sad funeral.
I’ve said it already, but such a terrible ending to an amazing life.
All of this research I’ve done on Ernest Hemingway has made me really want to read a biography about him. Anyone have any suggestions—assuming I could fit one into my reading schedule?
Article excerpt: New York Times