Ol' Ricky's Redskins Tales - Jack Kent Cooke's Grave
Ol’ Ricky once made Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke really mad when claiming he’d dance on the owner’s grave. Oh, Cooke promised he’d outlive me. I knew the odds were in my favor and sure enough Cooke died in April 1997.
I covered the funeral from across the street as only one pool reporter was allowed inside the packed little chapel called Trinity Episcopal Church. Since the Washington Post and myself at the Washington Times wouldn’t let the other do it, we settled on Paul Woody of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who wrote up his notes in what’s a thankless task.
About 50 of us stood in a parking lot where some NFL leaders like Dallas owner Jerry Jones came by for interviews. Photographers were chased off public sidewalks by local cops.
It was the star-studded event as you’d expect the bombastic billionaire to command. But in 2013 when researching my last book, I returned to the Upperville, Va. church to see the grave. You’d expect a pyramid, but it was actually just a simple bronze marker with Cooke’s name and 1912-97.
It you want to visit, just stroll through the entrance and under the first tree on the right is Cooke. Buried alongside him is Elizabeth Cronin, who was among the 52 U.S. embassy hostages in Iran in 1979. She was later killed in a horse-riding accident.
What’s deliciously interesting is Cooke is buried maybe 150 feet from the Melon family, which founded the church that looks like something found in the French countryside. Paul Melon, son of U.S. ambassador Andrew Mellon who founded the National Gallery of Art in Washington, was a noted horse breeder. I met him in 1992 when Sea Hero won the Kentucky Derby. Cooke was jealous of Mellon because the Redskins owner really wanted to win a Derby. Mellon thought Cooke was new money trash. Their farms were separated by a country road, yet they refused to admit being neighbors. Now they’re eternal neighbors.
Upperville is known for two Civil War battles plus a John Updike poem. Stop by the church to see “The Squire.” And no, I didn’t dance on his grave. Cooke often recited a ballad by Sir Andrew Barton, a 16 century Scottish admiral who fought the British.
“I am hurt, but I am not slain.
I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile
Then I’ll rise and fight again.”
Well, I wasn’t sticking around to find out if that was true.
Ol’ Ricky has the holiday weekend off. Stay safe everyone and see you on Monday. Lots of stories in my book and these are the types of tales I’ll tell on my “Pizza and Pigskins Tours” later this summer.
Rick Snider is an award-winning sports writer who has covered Washington sports since 1978. He first wrote about the Redskins in 1983 before becoming a beat writer in 1993. Snider currently writes for several national and international publications and is a Washington tour guide. Follow Rick on Twitter at @Snide_Remarks.