‘Died: Who Cares?’ Is this the south’s most mysterious headstone?

A small stone set into the earth in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis is one of the more mysterious gravesites in the state.

It says simply:

Dorothy Ann Whitaker
Born Who Knows
Died Who Cares

The reason these words were carved on her tombstone is unclear, but the wording was apparently the wish of Dorothy and not her parents, James F. and Lottie M. Whitaker. Both Lottie’s marker and that of her son, Gus F. Whitaker, bear dates.

Dorothy Whitaker’s monument in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. (Source: FindaGrave.com)

According to a spokeswoman at Elmwood Cemetery, Dorothy Ann made arrangements for the stone before her death unbeknownst to her family. Some of the mystery can be determined, however, from Census records.

Dorothy Ann Whitaker is listed in the 1930 Census in Shelby County as the 21-year-old daughter of James and Lottie. Dorothy Ann’s brother, Gus, was listed as being 25 in 1930, and their mother, Lottie, as age 49. Lottie died in 1959, and her son Gus in 1986. Both are buried in Elmwood.

The whereabouts of James’ grave is unknown. Dorothy Ann’s death date remains a mystery.

The entrance to Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. (Photo by David McCrosky)

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