How many times have you passed by a someone’s grave only to stop in pure admiration? Creativity never ends in death. While knowing all the reasons and stories behind each stone is impossible, the privilege is still ours in sight.
Upon first glance of this monument, one would surmise that a husband and wife found each other in the arms of death. Closer inspection details the grave bearing only one body and an empty side with a deeply mysterious story. Here lies Ouida Estelle Emery Hood, who some have unknowingly addressed as Ouida Prikryl Hood. Or were they right in revealing perhaps in serendipity or zemblanity of two star-crossed lovers carrying on an illicit romance?
Ouida. Her name is a variation of “famous warrior” and what a fitting name. Though rife with challenges most women never imagined at the time, Ouida was pitted against fate from the time she was born on September 19, 1883. A shadow looming overhead became an ever present indentation in life. Those who remember her describe a sensational beauty who was marred by heritage, an element uncontrollable used to marginalize her. At the urgency of conforming, Ouida became a baptismal Christian in her community, with sponsorship from prominent figures such as Frank Haywood and Margarent Busby Shipp at the Christ Church.
She never found her footing in Raleigh, living as a boarder here and there. Realizing that if she wanted to emerge from the shadows, a new city must be her home. Leaving for Richmond, Virginia, she later relocated to Norfolk. Perhaps she missed home because Ouida came back and married a local gentleman by the name of Wallace C. Hood.
During World War I, an army training camp localized near Raleigh. Here, Wallace met Franklin Prikryl, a real estate operator from Detroit. A fast friendship grew between these two. Franklin offered Wallace a job if the Hoods moved to Michigan when war ended.
The couple settled not far from Detroit and in a nearby farming community known as Frenchtown. Ouida found her dream country house while Wallace found success in the automobile industry through a partnership with Franklin. This new and benevolent friend moved in shortly after with the duo. Luck favored Franklin more out of the two men as he continued with other ventures while Hood found difficulties. The latter stayed in the industry and steadied himself through long time experience.
Even through their plight, the “family” displayed true generosity and community spirit amongst the town. Neighbors spoke of Ouida as a woman who always cared for others without complaint. Her dedication resulted in the building of a hall for the Frenchtown Grange organization and detailing the landscape with personal touches. She organized the Juvenile Grange and endorsed 4-H clubs for farmers’ children.
While the couple never had children of their own, her love for children proved genuine as she hosted numerous events such as a giant Easter Egg Hunt on a five acre field nearby. She became a voice for women through her organization of women’s clubs. Wherever she went, everyone knew of her reputation as the life of the party. In later years, a neighbor recalled she was “always doing something for somebody.”
Everyone adored the Hoods. Theirs was a seemingly apt marriage until he walked away from her years later. Surely, it was a surpise in the quiet community and a sad event to see the beloved couple bid adieu to one another. Ouida packed Wallace’s belongings one last time and he left Frenchtown. Out of this came a known secret by the town as a conscious uncoupling and one without animosity. Wallace deed the house to Ouida and no official divorce ever came to light. He lived under the radar and not many knew about him, but recent findings show that he remarried and lived the remainder of his life in Michigan. His second bride was a divorcée of Hungarian descent named Kathrine Kish.
The puzzling thing for folks was always the wonder of why Ouida stayed behind when she could have moved to a metropolitan area what with her charm and sophistication. There was no longer anything to tie her down. Except Ouida loved the community and stayed for the joy the friendships bought her, which was a stark contrast to Raleigh.
Franklin stayed as a boarder paying for his room and board. Soon, he reached local celebrity himself through involvement in the community. He spent tons of money working on building more to the Grange and the Juvenile Grange. Whatever organizations Ouida held an interest in, it seemed Franklin was never far behind to lend a hand. Once, he chartered a bus and drove a group of farmers into Detroit on a theater party.
For Ouida, she lived out her life peacefully but with declining health after an operation. Before her death, she deeded her house to her friend and confidant. On February 23, 1930, she suffered a sudden nosebleed which recurred on February 27, 1930, resulting in her death. Ouida never forgot where she came from as her last wish was to be buried there. Franklin took her body to the “City of Oaks” and also bought quite an amount of Michigan earth from her garden to bury with her. This small act was his gift to her and a reminder that she would always rest in the place where she found happiness and escaped the shadow of her childhood.
A grand monument was built and Franklin commissioned a work from the best German stone cutters. Made of granite and bronze, the fixture stands today with three angels and Ouida’s likeness in the middle. Her long ago Frenchtown neighbors contributed $500 while he paid for the rest.
When the memorial was completed, poor Franklin fell bankrupt. Luck turned as several business deals went awry such a stock failing at a Detroit bank. He sold the Frenchtown house and rented a one room farmhouse across the way. Much time was spent on remedying and investing in other business ventures.
After Ouida’s passing, Franklin planted ivy and cared for a grave for a time before asking families of the neighboring graves to care for it. One day without warning, he exited the city without a word just as Wallace did. All he left were gracious words about her in life on the stone. Perhaps, it was a way to remind people that she truly was a good soul who was misunderstood by her hometown.
Today, Ouida remains alone under the grand monument without Franklin who is interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California on July 17, 1962. Only the year of his birth and name indicates that he should have been in Raleigh. Many years ago, Oakwood spoke with his sister to find out why he never returned to Raleigh, only to discover that he never wanted to speak of the matter again.
What went wrong in the marriage between Ouida and Wallace? Was the outward cordiality between Franklin and Ouida more than words expressed on her stone? The odd story of the trio will remain a mystery for now. Some believed Ouida and Franklin carried on a relationship with more meaning than the outward cordiality. The two never clarified the status in life or death, so there is another part of an untold story.
As I sat down with Sue Purkis, I can tell that a meaningful story is about to unfold. With a smile, she tells me that she is an advocate for Wreaths Across America, an organization dedicated to remember, honor, and teach about our brave military members and veterans. Each December, they lay wreaths on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery and many other veterans’ cemeteries across the country. After creating a chapter of Wreaths Across America at Oakwood Cemetery, she tells me that this venture has been quite successful in the past three years. Veterans and many of their families dwell in a section known as the Field of Honor where veterans are provided with a white, marble headstone marker by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs free of charge. Oakwood Cemetery’s purpose is to provide a low-cost burial space for veterans and their families while keeping a space that honors the lives of those interred.
Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Purkis knew about WAA before coming to Raleigh. She considers herself as someone who is interested in cemeteries and also in the preservation aspects. In the past, cemeteries were places where families held picnics and gatherings. As someone who has worked in a hospice setting where taking care of ill and elderly patients were normal, death is not a hidden thing for her. She firmly muses,
“We all deal with it.”
Oakwood is a peaceful place of rest and life for her. When she has time, Purkis volunteers at events such as the North Carolina Science Festival: The Birds and the Bees and the Urn Art & Garden Faire held here. She hopes to see more local events that will create involvement for those who are curious about Oakwood.
On this year’s ceremony for WAA at Oakwood, the goal is to be able to lay more wreaths for all veterans who reside in other sections outside the Field of Honor. In the past, the Girl Scouts came to lay wreaths and Purkis hopes that more of the “next generation” will attend. Moreover, she tells me that if there was full representation from the Army, Navy, Coastguard, Airforce, Marines, and the POWs, she would feel complete and content on this year’s mission.
Oakwood Cemetery will host another Wreaths Across America event on Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 12:00 p.m.
If you have any questions, please call Robin Simonton at 919.832.6077
For those who would like to purchase wreaths this season, please visit:
Sponsoring Group ID Number: NC 0016P
Location ID: NC H0FH
Name of Cemetery: Oakwood Cemetery
You can also press on the link below: