By Walter H. Marx
Forest Hills Cemetery was originally set aside in 1848 by the City of Roxbury as a city cemetery. In the corner of the grounds near Walk Hill and Canterbury streets, explorers will find the glass-enclosed white marble statue titled “Boy in the Boat,” and marked LL on the cemetery’s map of curiosities. Books on Boston’s statues unfortunately bypass its cemeteries’ sculptures. This statue is as fresh, pure and lifelike as the day it was erected due to its glass covering and, in addition, it has a most interesting story to tell.
Also erected with the monument was a marble bench with a moveable drawer (since removed), where the grieving mother could come to clean the glass, polish its brass fitting, place flowers, and do other duties as she saw fit. Due to financial reverses, Mme. Mieusset’s private income ceased, and she went to work as a domestic on Beacon Hill. She lived on Kirkland St. in the South End, becoming increasingly frail but ever attending her son’s grave by scrimping and saving.
Perhaps the most lovely element about this tale is that it has no ending. For even after the death of his mother (whose grave is not specifically marked), fresh flowers are left at the site almost daily, anonymously. Even stakeouts at the site have never revealed who it is that keeps the site so dutifully. Those who know the sculpture of the cemetery well rightly match Louis with Gracie Allen (marked HH on the map of curiosities); another mint marble statue preserved in a glass case, a young girl who had died in 1880 at nearly the same age as Louis. These extraordinary outdoor statues are only two of the sculptural highlights that can be seen at Forest Hills.
Max Greim, the artisan who worked on the “Boy in the Boat’ statue. Max Greim was born March 18, 1863 in Bavaria and immigrated to the United States in 1869. Greim was living in Jamaica Plain at 56 Chestnut Street when he was married and lived at 14 Ashley Street at the time he became a citizen. Greim is shown here next to the model for a portion of the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, immortalizing the brave attack on Battery Wagner by the Massachusetts 54th Regiment. Photograph courtesy of Chris Rohter.