Gems in the shadows: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Grave


Photo courtesy Josh Freedman

Senior Josh Freedman and freshman Charles Freedman next to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Grave holding copies of “The Great Gatsby.”

We are lucky to live in a region rich with history, artifacts, monuments and stories that helped shape our area and our nation. However, many of these gems are hidden in the shadows of larger, more popular attractions, waiting to be explored. One such place is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grave, located in the shadows of the passing cars on Rockville Pike.

Renowned for his publication of 172 works of literature, Fitzgerald was a man worthy of having his own story shared. One interesting aspect about this influential individual was his relationship to Francis Scott Key: a lawyer and an author primarily studied for his creation of the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Fitzgerald and Key were distant cousins, which explains why Fitzgerald was named after him. Although he used the name F. Scott Fitzgerald for his writing, his true name was Frances Scott Key Fitzgerald. Given the fact that Key was only a second cousin three times removed, Fitzgerald was known to have played up his familial relationship with him as it made for quite a unique conversation starter.

After becoming a World War One veteran and Princeton graduate, Fitzgerald married the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court Judge: Zelda Sayre. Sayre can be attributed with partially serving as inspiration for Fitzgerald’s stories pertaining to the “Jazz Era” of the 1920s, as she is credited with being America’s first “flapper.” The popular couple epitomized the wealthy and opulent lifestyle of the 1920s.

Without Sayre, such a gem as Fitzgerald’s grave would have never been as readily accessible for community members to visit. When he died in Hollywood, CA, in December of 1940 (13 years after The Great Depression began), there were no instructions as to where he would have appreciated his final resting place to be.

Sayre insisted he be buried at his family plot in a Catholic cemetery in Rockville,, but the church there refused, given Fitzgerald’s widely-known lack of religious beliefs. Originally buried a mile away in Rockville Cemetery, eventually alongside Sayre, both bodies were moved in 1975 with the permission of the Archbishop of Washington to St. Mary’s Church Cemetery.

Undeniably, one of Fitzgerald’s most defining works of literature is “The Great Gatsby,” which depicts the flashy lives of those who have attained “the American dream,” as well as those fortunate enough to be in their good graces, in the early 1920s. With a major motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, “The Great Gatsby” is an essential item in virtually every public school across the country.

Unlike most historical locations, Fitzgerald’s grave remains unnoticed by the majority of commuters who pass it on a daily basis on their way to Washington, D.C.. Directly adjacent to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, those who would like to pay their respects to Fitzgerald and Sayre can do so at their leisure.

Fitzgerald’s grave can be found at 520 Veirs Mill Rd, Rockville, MD 20852.