The Heart of a Good Mystery Is Its Plot

For years it was one of my favorite Fort Worth mysteries. And the solution to that mystery is (not) buried under this tombstone:

The mystery began in 1997 when this tombstone was installed at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Nick Beef, it appeared, rubbed elbows in eternity with the most famous person buried in the cemetery: Lee Harvey Oswald.

Curious people right away noticed something about the tombstone beyond the unusual name: The tombstone has no dates of birth and death—the two bookends of a life included on most tombstones. Curious people asked cemetery officials about it. Rose Hill’s general manager (1) explained that no interment card was on file for the Nick Beef plot but (2) would not divulge the purchaser of the plot.

No interment card? Did that mean that no one is buried under the Nick Beef tombstone? And why would the cemetery manager not divulge the purchaser of the plot next to the assassin of a president of the United States?

In a country that was still trying to come to terms with a crime committed in 1963, that’s a good way to start rumors. And start they did and swirled for years around the still-young Internet as journalists and assassination buffs dug into the Nick Beef mystery.

The mystery about Nick Beef deepened because the Rose Hill cemetery staff also had become circumspect about the Oswald grave itself: The grave generated a lot of unwanted traffic in the cemetery, detracting from Rose Hill’s funereal ambiance. To discourage assassination buffs and gawkers, the cemetery staff stopped providing cemetery visitors with directions to Oswald’s grave. In those early Internet days before every landmark was labeled on Google maps, the staff’s silence made the Oswald grave difficult to find without directions.

Then came a theory: A stand-up comedian in New York City who used the stage name “Nick Beef” had bought the cemetery plot next to Oswald’s and had placed the Nick Beef tombstone there.

Why would he do that?

According to the theory the comedian had bought the tombstone so that he could tell his audiences how people could locate Oswald’s grave after cemetery staff had stopped providing directions: by asking cemetery staff where to find the tombstone of Nick Beef, not Lee Harvey Oswald. After people navigated to the Nick Beef headstone, the Oswald headstone was to the immediate left.

In 2013 Nick Beef himself finally spoke up—and not from the grave. Patric Scott Abedin had formerly lived in Fort Worth and Arlington. Per the theory, he was a “nonperforming performance artist” in New York City. And per the theory, he used the stage name “Nick Beef,” even had a credit card bearing that name. But beyond those facts, the theory begins to crumble. In an interview in 2013 Abedin told the New York Times that in 1963, when he was six years old, his father, Samuel Abedin, was a navigator stationed at Carswell Air Force Base. Patric was in the crowd that greeted Kennedy when the president landed at Carswell on November 21. Patric was perched on the shoulders of an airman when Kennedy passed within a few feet of him.

By the late 1960s Abedin was living with his mother in Arlington. Every week they would drive to Carswell and then sometimes stop at Rose Hill on their way home.

“She’d get out and look at Oswald’s grave,” Abedin told the Times, “and tell me, ‘Never forget that you got to see Kennedy the night before he died.’ ”

When Abedin was eighteen he read that the plot next to Oswald’s had never been sold. He went to Rose Hill and bought the plot.

Why?

“It meant something to me in life.  It was a place I could go and feel comfortable.”

But Abedin didn’t do anything with the plot until 1996.

Abedin, by then living in Manhattan, came back to Fort Worth to bury his mother. While in town he went to Rose Hill and decided, on the spot, to buy a tombstone and have it installed on his plot next to Oswald’s.

When the cemetery employee who was filling out the purchase form asked Abedin what name he wanted engraved on the tombstone. Abedin, who has admitted to having a morbid streak, replied:
“Nick Beef.”

Abedin recalled that the employee, upon hearing “Nick Beef,” stopping filling out the form.
Then Abedin showed the employee the credit card with the name “Nick Beef” on it.
Good enough.
Abedin paid a little over $1,000 for the plot and the tombstone.

And so the mystery began.

In case you are wondering, Abedin said he has no plans to be buried under the Nick Beef tombstone. He plans to be cremated.
But why the name “Nick Beef” anyway? Abedin said he had conceived the stage name years earlier while dining with a friend, whose stage name was . . . wait for it . . . “Hash Brown.”
Another mystery solved.

The rest of the story: Of course, the Rose Hill staff eventually caught on to the Nick Beef plot ploy and stopped providing visitors with directions to the tombstones of both Oswald and Beef.
Hmmm. Sounds like it’s time for someone to bury Sir Loin next to Nick Beef.

Aerial photo shows the location of Oswald and Beef relative to the Shannon mausoleum in the traffic triangle to the east. The two tombstones are located about even with the house at 3112 Rose Hill Drive.

Posts About Cemeteries

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One Response to The Heart of a Good Mystery Is Its Plot

  1. Marion Richeson says:

    Oswald is buried in a grave at the front of the cemetery. A Red Oak tree is planted on the grave. He was moved to the grave site after the autopsy in the 90’s.

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