F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gravesite
F. Scott Fitzgerald never lived in Rockville. So why is he buried in Rockville?
Young Scott regularly visited his father’s relatives at “Locust Grove” in Montgomery County, returning home fascinated with family and Civil War stories. The seven-year-old was a “ribbon holder” at his cousin Cecilia Delihant’s home wedding at Randolph Station, south of Rockville, on April 24, 1903.
While intervening years took Fitzgerald around the world, Maryland never left his heart. People, places, and experiences in Rockville found their way into his writings. The author’s life-long connection to Rockville was maintained through correspondence, family ties and visits and, in 1940, as his final resting place.
As an adult Fitzgerald may have visited Rockville more often than research has uncovered. We do know that he returned from Paris to attend his father’s funeral at Saint Mary’s Church in 1931. A passage in Tender is the Night (1934) described his feelings:
It was very friendly leaving him there with all his relations around him…
Dick had no more ties here now and did not believe he would come back…
‘Good-by, my father-good-by, all my fathers.’
Fitzgerald died at age 44 on December 21, 1940, in Hollywood, California. On December 27 a small group of family and friends attended the simple service specified in his will. They then accompanied him from Pumphrey’s Funeral Home in Bethesda, in the rain, to Rockville Cemetery on Baltimore Road. After his wife, Zelda, died in a sanitarium fire on March 11, 1948, she was buried with him beneath a common headstone.
F. Scott Fitzgerald had once written that, “I wouldn’t mind a bit if in a few years Zelda and I could snuggle up together under a stone in some graveyard. That is really a happy thought, and not melancholy at all.”
The Women’s Club of Rockville was instrumental in the Fitzgeralds’ move to Saint Mary’s Cemetery on Veirs Mill Road. As a result of an expanded project to beautify the original gravesite, the Club approached Scott and Zelda’s only child, Frances “Scottie” Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith, who responded positively to their suggestion to unite her parents with Fitzgerald family members in Saint Mary’s. Historic designation of the church was a major factor in Scottie Fitzgerald’s decision to reinter her parents in the cemetery there. This was accomplished on November 7, 1975, with a ceremony organized by the Women’s Club, “Tender is This Day.”
Scottie visited Monsignor Adam Kostick in late 1985 with the request that she be buried near her parents. She followed with a letter in June, which was received on June 18, 1986, just prior to her funeral service at Saint Mary’s Chapel. The church and cemetery are part of a National Register-listed historic site. Today, 15 members of the family-Fitzgeralds, Delihants, Scotts, and Robertsons-rest in peace at historic Saint Mary’s Cemetery.