Headstone of Woman from Florida Found in a Planter Under the West Side Highway

By Michael McDowell

A keen-eyed Upper West Sider, who wishes to remain anonymous, spotted something unusual and a bit macabre on his daily walk from West 93rd to 45th Street earlier this week.

It was the headstone of Rose Roy Weiss, who passed away on February 19, 1986—more than thirty years ago—partially buried in a round planter under the West Side Highway in the West 50’s near Riverside Park.

“On Tuesday, I noticed the corner of a thing sticking out of a planter, with the name Rose on it. I decided to pull it out because most of it was obscured, beneath some garbage and half-buried in soil,” he told the Rag.

“It was so odd. I took down all of the information on the stone and called 311, they put me in touch with 911, who didn’t seem too interested,” he continued.

“I would say with confidence that this happened very recently. I would have seen it, I’ve seen that planter before and I’ve never seen anything planted in it, I’ve only seen people using it for garbage,” he added.

Since it isn’t every day one happens upon a tombstone buried in an ornamental planter under the West Side Highway, the tipster started digging around on genealogy websites and in death records databases.

Eventually, he unearthed a Dade County, Florida, death record, the authenticity of which he said he confirmed with an attorney. The attorney provided more information from the complete death record, in the Florida Death Index, 1877-1998, from the Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital Records: “no known relations.”

The Rag was unable to confirm this information with the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office. We confirmed that the stone was still in the planter as of Thursday evening.

“I think I found her name on some census records from the 1930s and 1940s, maybe, but the only thing that matches these death and birth dates exactly is this death record from Florida. She may have lived on Grandview Place in the Bronx around 1930, and may have been married to someone named William J. Weiss, with whom she may have had children, Robert and Richard Weiss, born about 1928 to 1929,” he said.

“This is the only person I’ve found with a middle initial of R, however, which gives me hope it might be her.”

The Upper West Sider has contacted several local and regional cemeteries, to no avail, and hopes media attention may result in the return of the stone to where it belongs: Ms. Weiss’ final resting place.

“I feel some obligation to protect the stone, but obviously I’m not going to take it in, it’s stolen property—someone’s headstone. I do hope we can find its home,” he said.

But how did the gravestone wind up in a planter under the West Side Highway in the first place?

“I wonder if they have cameras in the area,” the tipster considered.

The NYC Department of Parks says the land is controlled by the Hudson River Parks Trust.

“The planter is on a median,” the man who found the headstone said. “Someone could have pulled off of the highway, buried the stone, and then gotten right back on the highway. My other idea is, someone’s trying to get rid of this thing, they think, we’ll throw it in the river. Driving south on the Henry Hudson, that’s the first exit that looks apparently like you could just get right to the river. But of course, you can’t get right to the river, so maybe they just quickly ditched it and went on their way,” he said.

Born January 1, 1903, Rose Roy Weiss passed away on February 19, 1986, in Dade County, Florida.

The Rag is withholding the exact location of the headstone, but those who may have information that could lead to the return of the stone to the Weiss family or an appropriate party are encouraged to contact us.

NEWS | 12 comments | permalink
    1. Mark P says:

      What an intriguing discovery.

      “No known relations” “BELOVED MOTHER”

      Hmm…

    2. BillyNYC says:

      This is a great forensic news investigating story…TV NEWS better pick this one up.

    3. NYYgirl says:

      Oh! I hope someone will be able to figure this out! Sad 🙁

    4. UWS_lifer says:

      Now this really does sound like the beginning to an episode of Law & Order.

      Get Briscoe and Logan out there ASAP.:) Maybe send the C.S.I NY guys over there too…you know, to dust for prints and such.

    5. Ollysdad says:

      For all amateur sleuths and genealogists–the speculation by the tombstone’s finder that Rose Roy Weiss was the woman who lived on Grandview Place in the Bronx in 1930 and was married to William Weiss is incorrect. Public records show that Rose R Weiss was born Rose Mary Cohen (she also used the name Rose Cone). After her marriage to William Weiss, she married the playwright Lyon Mearson, and died in Las Vegas in 1993. She and the two sons Richard and Robert noted in the article are all mentioned in Lyon Mearson’s 1966 NY Times obituary. The Rose Weiss buried under this errant tombstone is also not the Rose Weiss who was one of the pioneering Jews of Miami Beach (she died in 1974), or the Rose Weiss married to John Eugene Weiss who lived in Dade County in the 1940s (she died in 1978). And there’s something incongruous about the Vital Records office noting in her file that she had ‘no known relations’ when someone appears to have paid for a tombstone and declared her a ‘beloved mother’.

      • Vivian says:

        That makes it even more intriguing – someone obviously made the tombstone and got paid for it!

    6. Vivian says:

      Awwwww, really makes me sad. I wish someone can put it safely away until someone can claim it. How about the Museum of New York City on Fifth Avenue? Just saying…..

    7. NativeNYer says:

      Channel 11 News, Help Me Howard, might be
      interested in this mystery.

    8. Billy Amato/Agatha Christie says:

      Sound to me a mystery thriller!!!
      A good old Agatha Christie mystery tale…
      Don’t you here it!!! the stone is yelling….”Save Me”…there’s a story here!!! We must find her grave in Florida.
      There’s more to this than meets the eye.

    9. RickiLS says:

      Perhaps the stone was made in New york and never placed in Florida. Perhaps local tombstone suppliers could be helpful with this since they keep records, and would understand what the dementions of the stone imply. It looks very narrow for a headstone or even for a footstone, maybe it was a sample made for selling purposes. Stone suppliers sometimes out “samples” on display in their stores.

    10. D.I. Malin says:

      Whoa! Someone from WSR please email me and let me know where this is! I will have it vouchered and safeguarded until it can be returned to the proper location. This isn’t something that the NYPD typically takes a case on ( especially if the headstone came from out of state) , so I suggest a healthy amount of citizen inquisition and journalism. Working through the West Side Rag, I will support and lend resources to the investigation to the best of my ability.