In the early 1900s, Otto Hess was a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, a solid inning-eater prone to wildness (he holds the team record for wild pitches in a season, and once led the league in hit batsmen).
After his major league career ended, Hess – a veteran of the Spanish-American War in the late 1800s – enlisted again to fight in the World War (in John Houseman’s words in “Three Days of the Condor,” before we had the sense to number them). Like Christy Mathewson, Hess contracted tuberculosis while in Europe for the war, and returned home and died in 1926 – four months after the Big Six’s death.
Since then, Hess’ earthly remains have been consigned to Fairview Park Cemetery on Lorain Road – likely the doing of his second wife, Irene, the daughter of Fairview Park’s first mayor, George Sweet. Irene was buried alongside of Hess when she died in 1976, and her parents are buried nearby.
But age has taken a toll at the cemetery, and Chris Gerrett, a volunteer who runs the cemetery’s adopt-a-tombstone project, is seeking volunteers and monetary donations to help refurbish the gravesite – along with others throughout the cemetery.
The tombstone was restored by volunteer Karen Lachowski and her son Brian, but the whole area around the gravesite – and by several others, collapsed. “We have a lot of trees nearby,” Gerrett said. “Some are old, some died and I guess the roots just collapsed and everything around them settled.”
Gerrett said she needs volunteers to help raise the tombstone, put in fill dirt to raise the level back up, and then replace the tombstone. She’s seeking dirt from the municipality, but the cemetery’s so old – burials started in the early 1800s – that vehicles can’t travel in the cemetery.
Anyone who can donate money or their time is asked to contact Gerrett at fairviewparkcemetery.org.