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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac

Day 3

On Day 3 we paid our respects to Jack and his family before ending the night with friends and other Beat fans in Lowell.

Cemetary in Nashua, NH

We started off in Nashua, NH where Jack’s brother, father and mother are all buried and where his daughter Jan’s ashes were interred in 1997. Then we drove down to Lowell so Neal could visit with Jack. At first it seemed kind of hokey but as we stood there we understood there was more meaning here than we had initially thought. We had a photo with us and discussed the story Carolyn Cassady talks about at the end of her book, “Off the Road”.

The Kerouac plot in Nashua

Carolyn relates how Diana Hansen had asked her to send her some of Neal’s ashes specifically so she could sprinkle Neal’s ashes over Jack’s grave. Carolyn did indeed send the ashes to Diana but there is no record as to whether Diana ever followed through with the plan for Neal to rejoin Jack.

John with Neal's photo at Jack's grave

Kerouac's marker reads 'He Honored Life'

Visiting with Jack

Below Steve Edington fills us in on the importance of these sites to Jack’s work and his life:

The St. Louis de Gonzaque Cemetery in Nashua, New Hampshire was opened in 1880 by the St. Louis Church, which was established in response to the increasing number of French Canadians who were arriving from Quebec. One of the immigrants who purchased space in this cemetery was Jean Baptiste Kerouac, Jack Kerouac’s grandfather, shortly after he arrived with his family in Nashua in 1890.

This gravesite is important because this very ground is the locale of the closing chapters of three of Jack Kerouac’s novels: “The Town and the City” (T&C), “Visions of Gerard” (VOG), and “Vanity of Duluoz.(VOD)”. T&C and VOD, the first and last novels respectively that Kerouac saw published in his lifetime, each end with the death of Jack’s father, Leo Kerouac. In T&C Leo is called George Martin and in VOD he is Emil Duluoz. VOG describes the final year of Jack’s brother, Gerard, who died of rheumatic fever in 1926, when Jack was four and Gerard was nine. The death of his older brother haunted Jack throughout his life, and his description of Gerard’s funeral in Lowell and subsequent burial at the St. Louis de Gonzague Cemetery in Nashua is one of the more moving passages in all of Kerouac’s writings.

Jack’s mother, Gabrielle Levesque Kerouac, was also buried at this site following her death in November of 1973.

This gravesite also became the focus of widespread attention in March of 1996 when Jack’s daughter, Jan Michele Kerouac, of Albequerque, New Mexico, attempted to have her father’s body moved from the Sampas family plot in Lowell’s Edsen Cemetery to the Kerouac site in the St. Louis Cemetery. Jan Michele’s appeal was short lived and she withdrew her request several weeks after making it. Tragically, Jan Michele died just a few months later in June of 1996 at age 44. Her creamated remains were interred in this same Kerouac gravesite one year after her death in June of 1997.

Steve and John at the gravesite

The final night's Poetry Jam at Cafe Paradiso.

David and Frank (Beat Angel) plan to stay in touch

John joins in with a Stratocaster.

Andii wonders what's up her husband John's Kilt

Cora lifts her glass in a toast.

David thought 'Hot Day at the Zoo' was great!

- Photo of Neal Cassady copyright Larry Keenan

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