Zahs authors book on grave symbols

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL


Washington County resident Mike Zahs has achieved another feat ? author.

The book is called ?Grave Marker Symbols A Field Guide,? and is co-authored with Loren N. Horton, of Iowa City.

Zahs and Horton will have a book signing at the Washington Public Library at 10 a.m., this Saturday.

?We?ll talk a little bit about the background of the book and the purpose of the book and how to use the book,? Zahs said. ?Then if people want to get the book, that will be the first time it?s available and then we?ll sign books if they want us to.?

The idea to write the book came after Horton and Zahs traveled together.

?Dr. Horton and I have done tours of Iowa together since the 1980s and we?re both interested in cemeteries and we?ve done a lot of tours of cemeteries and we took pictures and thought ?You know, we should do a book sometime,? and we finally did,? Zahs said.

Horton is considered a national expert on cemeteries and used to be the Iowa State historian, he added.

The field guide points out grave markers from across the state and features some from Washington County.

One of the grave markers is from Elm Grove Cemetery in Washington and has an angel on top, which was installed last September.

?He took two years to build that grave marker,? Zahs said. ?It?s made out of zinc. There have not been zinc grave markers put up for almost 100 years. This is the first one in the country to be put up.?

Another local grave marker features Mr. Graham, of the Graham Opera House. His grave marker is made of limestone and was the first one to be put up in the country in many, many years, he added.

?And it?s here in Washington, but we did not identify the location for these markers,? he added. ?The purpose of this book was for you to look for the symbolism on the marker.?

For Zahs, seeing the symbolism on the markers is what he calls the ?fun part.?

?If you come across a grave [marker] and there is a rose, we just think that?s for pretty, but it means something,? he said. ?Here we have a hand picking two roses. Well, that was [for] two children who died and so there is always a meaning.?

This book is also meant to celebrate the people buried there.

?I always say, ?You go to the cemetery not because people died, but because people lived,? Zahs said.