Ida Wharton & The Headless Angel

It’s not uncommon to come across statue markers missing various body parts due to weathering or vandalism. In my experience the absent piece is usually a hand, foot, or a wing. Ida Murray Wharton’s angel in Greensboro’s Green Hill (on Wharton Street) is different. Her marker is missing its head as well as the right hand.

Ida’s angel wasn’t the only child’s marker in that cemetery to have lost its head over the years. William Clegg Jr.‘s monument was also headless (at least in 2008) but has since been repaired. Whether Ida’s angel’s head was lost, discarded or stolen, I don’t know. I don’t want to think that someone took pleasure in knocking the heads from children’s grave markers, but this is the world in which we live. The pedestal has also slipped off its base, giving the angel the appearance that it might topple over at any given moment.  Even with its imperfections the marker remains beautiful and after reading Ida’s death notice, the parallels between her memorial and her life are striking.

Ida was born in December 1904 into a well-known Greensboro family. Her father, E.P. Wharton, was once the president of the Greensboro National Bank and also served in other high-ranking positions at other financial institutions. In 1910 Ida lived with her parents, paternal grandfather, and sisters Margaret and Annie at 406 Asheboro Street. With the exception of the grandfather, everyone in the household would accompany Ida’s body back from Germany the following year.

I haven’t been able to find out much about Ida’s brief time among the living, but her obituary in the July 27, 1911 issue of the Greensboro Record indicates that she had lifelong medical issues.

Mr. & Mrs. E. P. Wharton, parents of the little girl, arrived early this morning with their daughters, at the end of the journey from Berlin home with the body of the little daughter and sister. Ida Murray was 6 years of age at the time of her death.

An invalid all her young life, her mind was ever active and clear and her smile sweet. She was pleasant and amiable and invariably wound the heart strings of all who met her around the memory of her gentle and patient sweetness under her affliction. Her parents carried her to Germany for treatment under world famous specialists in a final hope of a remedy and the recovery of health. A surgical operation of extremely delicate nature was performed on the morning of July 13 in Berlin and the child rallied, but later in the day succumbed and died. Her short life will be remembered as a steady ray of bright sunshine lent for a short season from happier regions.”

The vague use of the term “invalid” could mean that Ida suffered from any number of debilitating physical and/or intellectual disabilities and because she died in Germany, I couldn’t find her death certificate. The phrase, “her mind was ever active and clear” suggests that perhaps her condition was more of a physical ailment, but I don’t know for sure. I also tried to find information on Berlin medical advances in the treatment of “invalids” in 1911 with no luck.

The visible inscription on Ida’s marker reads, “My Beloved Is Gone, Down Into His Garden” from the Song of Solomon.

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One thought on “Ida Wharton & The Headless Angel”

  1. It's always distressing to see figures who have lost parts. While I like that they make for unusual and interesting photos, I always feel bad that they've suffered damage.

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