Photo by Elizabeth Dranitzke

Patrick Crowley

Patrick Crowley saw the deplorable condition of Congressional Cemetery while walking his Saint Bernard in the 1990s. He joined other dog-walkers to create a volunteer effort to improve the grounds.

His life changed when he requested and received a position on the cemetery’s Board of Directors. He received a Community Achievement Award in 2012 for his contributions to the cemetery, and Stephanie Deutsch interviewed him in preparation. His descriptions of the cemetery’s history, geography, and preservation make for compelling and sometimes surprising reading. Crowley, who was originally from the Chicago area, moved to Washington and Capitol Hill in 1979 to work as an industry economist for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Read Transcript
Interview Date
January 30, 2012
Interviewer
Stephanie Deutsch
Transcriber
Jack Womeldorf
Editor

Full Directory

TAPE 1/SIDE 1
DEUTSCH: This is Stephanie Deutsch, January 30, 2012. I’m sitting with Dr. Crowley at 500 East Capitol Street NE. Patrick, will you just …
CROWLEY: My name is Patrick Crowley. I live at 630 E Street NE, Washington, DC.
DEUTSCH: Wonderful! So you don’t live opposite the cemetery any more?
CROWLEY: No. I moved where I live now around 2000.
DEUTSCH: OK, we’ll get there. But let’s start with where you grew up. You grew up in Chicago, right?
CROWLEY: In a suburb of Chicago, in Glenview, a suburb of Chicago which … my parents built the house we lived in right after World War II because we couldn’t find housing anywhere. And at that time, there were cornfields in the backyard and stuff. I’ve seen pictures of it from then. And then, my dad was a lawyer, a small-town lawyer, so at one time he represented pretty much everyone in town, because there weren’t any other lawyers. [laughs] In fact, he wrote the municipal code for the small town, called Glenview, Illinois. And one of the things he wrote about was animal control. And our dog was the first dog to get a ticket for being off-leash and wandering around.
DEUTSCH: What kind of dog was it?
CROWLEY: It was a big old Saint Bernard, which became the only kind of dog I’d want: a Saint Bernard. A big dog named Barney.
DEUTSCH: So, you grew up in Glenview.
CROWLEY: Glenview. There was a Naval Air Station nearby. As kids, we’d be watching “The Three Stooges”, and we’d lose the sound as the jets roared over our house for 10-15 minutes or so. My mom was a schoolteacher for about 20-25 years or so in the local Catholic school that we all went to.
DEUTSCH: Elementary school?
CROWLEY: Elementary school. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which was a huge parish when I was little. I think when I was around fifth grade maybe, the parish split in half, so our class size went from about 60 to around 30 or something.
DEUTSCH: High school. Did you go to a Catholic high school?
CROWLEY: Yeah. I went to Loyola Academy. I got a driving ticket one time and the judge asked me what school I went to and I said Loyola, and he said “Lawe-ola” very sternly but “Yes sir, I didn’t go to Loyola, I went to Lawe-ola.”
DEUTSCH: You were pronouncing it funny?
CROWLEY: I guess I was pronouncing it “l-i”, instead of “l-o.” It’s not Loyola, it’s Lawe-ola.
DEUTSCH: What did you do in high school? What were your …
CROWLEY: I worked every day after school. I had a job in Marshall Fields in the furniture and rug department, so every day I’d just go off to work.
DEUTSCH: That was a Marshall Fields branch, or you went into town?
CROWLEY: The branch in Skokie, Illinois.
DEUTSCH: The furniture department?
CROWLEY: Mostly rugs, but I helped move furniture too. One time I found out that I was not one of the highest paid stock boys there, and I had some of the hardest work, certainly moving the heaviest stuff. At times you’d have to roll up carpets that are really heavy and carry them down to people’s cars, and things like that. I complained one time about not getting a raise, and the boss wouldn’t give me one, so I quit. When I went home and told my parents at dinner I’d quit work, my dad said, “You can’t quit. Go back and get your job.” So I had to go back and beg, and my boss wouldn’t give me my job back, so I had to go to the general manager of the whole store and beg him for my job back, and …
A year or so earlier, I had put a suggestion in the suggestion box that if we have to eat this crappy food in the cafeteria that at least could let us take our smocks off. He remembered me, because I’d signed it.
DEUTSCH: [laughs] So you were a—I don’t want to say “troublemaker” but “an activist,” an activist from an early age.
CROWLEY: I learned how to drive a truck, a stick-shift truck at Marshall Fields, too. Somebody bought some heavy rugs and I went and put them in the truck and my manager said “Here’s the keys.” It’s a big Marshall Fields delivery van, and he said “Do you know how to drive a stick?” and I said no, I didn’t even know what that meant. So he leaned over and put the truck in second gear and said “Don’t touch that,” and I drove the truck and it sounded so bad I ground the gears around until I figured out how to drive the truck.
DEUTSCH: Wow. So did you get the job back?
CROWLEY: Yeah. I don’t remember if I got the raise or not.
DEUTSCH: Probably not. [laughs] You worked after school so there wasn’t time for a lot of extra-curriculars.
CROWLEY: I was never very sports-oriented either, so I didn’t miss that.
DEUTSCH: Where did you go to college?
CROWLEY: I went to John Carroll University in Cleveland. I knew nothing about the school. I liked the name for some odd reason.
DEUTSCH: Is it C A R R O L L?
CROWLEY: Yeah. It’s a Jesuit school. I didn’t know that, so I was going from one Jesuit school to another.
DEUTSCH: Probably some guidance counselor put the idea in your head.
CROWLEY: No, I never talked to a guidance counselor at Loyola—at all.
DEUTSCH: Well, university in Cleveland. What did you study there?
CROWLEY: Economics. I knew early on I wanted to study economics. In fact, back in high school, they didn’t have any economics classes, and I asked them to create one, so one of the teachers created a self-study economics class just for me. We were told to read the book “The Worldly Philosophers.” In high school, I never even bought the book.
DEUTSCH: “The Worldly Philosophers”? [1953]
CROWLEY: Yeah. By Robert Heilbroner, I think. I never bought the book, and when it came time for the final, the teacher asked me about the book, and all I could say was I found it difficult to read. [both laugh] He was asking me questions and I couldn’t answer any of them, and for some reason a friend of mine was in the room, and he finally said, “What color was it”? I glared at him, because I didn’t know what color it was—I hadn’t bought it. I still haven’t read it to this day.
DEUTSCH: But you passed somehow?
CROWLEY: That was in 1972, and the teacher was worried about kids being drafted to go to Vietnam, so he passed me so I wouldn’t be—to make sure I got out of high school.
DEUTSCH: That was nice.
CROWLEY: I was very fortunate. I believe it is a biography book of different economists, but I have it, but have not read it, actually.
DEUTSCH: So, John Carroll’s? How was that?
CROWLEY: It was good. I got a good education. You know, these were the “drug years” and I lived on the first floor of the dorm my freshman year, and one of the local drug dealers would knock on my windows and crawl through the window of my room, to go make his rounds in the building. He used to tell me I’d make a good drug addict—a heroin addict—I should try it some time.
DEUTSCH: I wonder what makes a good heroin addict?
CROWLEY: I don’t know, but I never wanted to go there. I sure spent enough time high on marijuana, though. I absorbed most of my studies through osmosis. I would open the book and hold it—I’m not sure I read it very much.
DEUTSCH: So what happened after college? You graduated about ’76?
CROWLEY: My junior year I decided I wanted to the London School of Economics; I’m not sure why. Instead of applying to the London School, I wrote to someone whose friend lived in London, and of course the application stuff never arrived. Just before school would have started my senior year, I realized I’m not registered anywhere. My sister’s boyfriend suggested we move in together and I’d go somewhere in Chicago, so I transferred to DePaul in Chicago. It’s a Catholic school, of the Vincentian Order.
DEUTSCH: It’s D-E-P-A-U-L?
CROWLEY: St. Vincent DePaul. It ended up being very good. I got a good education there. They have a Northside Chicago campus and a Downtown campus. I went to Downtown. I’d take the train from my folks’ house downtown.
DEUTSCH: So you lived at home?
CROWLEY: Yeah. I’d take the train down to Union Station, and walk the mile to class, and in the wintertime I had a beard, because I was in college, and my beard would be full of ice as I walked downtown.
DEUTSCH: One of the things I forgot to ask you about; you have lots of sisters and brothers, right?
CROWLEY: Right. I’m one of ten. I’m the seventh of ten kids.
DEUTSCH: How could we forget that? Where do you come in the order?
CROWLEY: I’m number seven.
DEUTSCH: What was the family dynamic like? What was the breakdown between girls and boys?
CROWLEY: Six boys and four girls.
DEUTSCH: Oh, gosh.
CROWLEY: From the oldest: Ann, Mary, Tom, John, Jim, Helen, myself, Mike, Louise, and Bill. And it’s about 20 years from the oldest to the youngest. It seemed like we always had someone else in the house.
DEUTSCH: A cousin or someone?
CROWLEY: Older; a grandparent or something. My mom took care of her dad until he passed away after World War II, and then she took care of my dad’s mom till she passed away, and then her mother became an invalid with Parkinson’s, which ran in her family. So I grew up with my grandmother being bedridden with Parkinson’s. They were investigated by the FBI, my parents were, because they were buying so many hypodermic needles, to give her injections of morphine for the pain. Then she passed away, and my great-uncle moved in: Great Uncle Alan, who I loved. He passed away, and some friend of my brother’s family fell apart, and Tommy Lulling moved in for three years.
DEUTSCH: Was it a really big house? Or was it just …
CROWLEY: It was a Cape Cod. There was a boys’ room upstairs, and a girls’ room. So for a while, we had seven boys in one room and four girls in the other. When I used to go back … when I was an adult, I’d go back home and go upstairs and think, “How did we fit seven beds and dressers in here? Where did we …?” I can’t figure out how we did it, but we did. Because the downstairs room was always some other adult who was living downstairs.
DEUTSCH: Were you close to your sisters and brothers? Probably.
CROWLEY: Yeah. It’s a big family. What’s that book, “The Road Less Traveled” I think. It’s about family dynamics: the archetypes; the “overachiever,” and the “mascot”, and the “lost child.” I forget what the other one is, but there’s four of them. After a while I realized, every time someone grew up and went off to college, the dynamics would shift and someone else …
DEUTSCH: And someone else would step into the role? Yeah. So what was your role in the family?
CROWLEY: I was the lost child. I was … Helen and I were in the middle and we kind of got left behind some how.
DEUTSCH: So what does that mean, you were the lost child?
CROWLEY: Mostly, I think, my parents didn’t really know what was going on. The older kids got a lot of attention because they were new and we had films of the older brothers playing baseball. Toward the middle, there’s just too much going on.
DEUTSCH: Fatigue sets in. [laughs]
CROWLEY: I don’t think I was intentionally ignored.
DEUTSCH: No no, and also if you weren’t the troubled child. I think, in those archetypes, there’s the troubled …
CROWLEY: My other brother Michael, he was the lightning rod; he would provoke my dad at dinner. He was getting a lot of attention just by provoking things. My role was to put on my imaginary slicker and hide from the storm. [laughs]. My dad was an alcoholic. I remember one time when I was doing therapy, the doctor stops and says, “The fact that you had ten brothers and sisters and you never felt poor or anything, was quite … your dad did quite well for you, actually.” We all went to private schools without any tuition aid or anything. So he didn’t do …
DEUTSCH: Where had he grown up?
CROWLEY: He grew up in Cicero, Illinois. His father died when he was one year old, so he grew up with his mother, who was apparently not a very nice person, and his cousin, who was our Aunt Loretta. My dad fought … he was a big figure in my family. He fought in World War II in E Company of the 442, which was a Japanese-American regiment, Regimental Combat Team. They were known for extraordinary bravery and they had some of the highest casualty rates in World War II. Senator Inouye [D-Hawaii] was his sergeant. I’ve never seen a picture of him …
DEUTSCH: What was Inouye’s first name?
CROWLEY: Daniel.
DEUTSCH: How do you spell Inouye?
CROWLEY: I-N-O-U-Y-E.
DEUTSCH: That was his commanding officer?
CROWLEY: My dad was the commanding officer. Inouye was one of his sergeants. I talked to Inouye once about dad, and he said my dad was one of the bravest people he’d ever met. They were all very tight; an incredible camaraderie between them. And he said my dad used to stand up on the battlefield to see what was going on, and he would have to throw him to the ground. Not many soldiers dared to throw their C.O. to the ground.
DEUTSCH: So what do you think happened when he came back? It was just too much pressure? Was there alcoholism in his family?
CROWLEY: There might have been. I’m an alcoholic myself. I’m a recovering alcoholic. So it’s in the genes. You can find excuses, but it’s in there. But after the war, he [got] to go back to California to go up and down the coast and talk to the small towns to get them to let the Japanese-Americans come back to their homes and re-establish their businesses. Then he went on to become a small-town lawyer and he was village attorney for a long time, and a volunteer fireman. He instilled in us a strong sense of civic duty; that you have to give back and participate in. That’s good; that runs pretty deep in our family. After he passed away …
DEUTSCH: Did you say he was a volunteer fireman?
CROWLEY: Yeah. After he passed away, my mom said a lot of people came to my mom to tell her that he saved their marriages—that they went to him to seek a divorce, and he counseled them to keep their marriage together, and then didn’t charge them for that service. And he had a lot of adoptions. Back then when, if a girl got pregnant, they’d try to hide it, and they’d put kids up for adoption and my dad was sort of facilitating the adoptions. And he was also investigated for that. If he was running some sort of child-selling ring or something. The local priest and stuff knew that he could help without a fee; do all the legal work of adoption. An incredible guy!
DEUTSCH: Did the fact that him being an alcoholic poison the family? I won’t necessarily put this in the piece [for the Gala] but it sounds like he was atmosphere? It usually does.
CROWLEY: I was with him one time downtown, and we were having a really good day talking; we went to the tavern after work. On the drive home he got angry. I think he didn’t like … I think it was too many kids for him. He’d grown up an only child. One of my teachers—Spanish teacher—got mad at me one time and he made Dad come in for a counseling session; I was really worried about it. I went to the room where they were talking, I looked in the room, and my dad was sitting in the chair like Abraham Lincoln. It was as grand as the Abraham Lincoln statue and my teacher was all curled up like a little schoolboy. All I could think of was “Thanks, Dad , you nailed it.” That was the kind of guy he was. He had great stature, and he was a brilliant guy. He could be very, very intimidating. My job at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was to be an expert witness. When people tried to cross-examine me, or intimidate me, I would sit there thinking, “I learned at the feet of the master. My dad did a much better job.”
DEUTSCH: We’ll get back to that. Sounds like a very interesting, interesting guy.
CROWLEY: Yeah. Very highly respected in my hometown. My mom was the counterpoint. She didn’t drink; hardly ever. She was a very loving, loving person.
DEUTSCH: Where did she grow up?
CROWLEY: She grew up in Rogers Park, inside Chicago. She was one of seven.
DEUTSCH: So a big family felt natural to her.
CROWLEY: Yeah. She was very good at managing crisis, chaos. We were never allowed to shout in the house. And fight. I’m not sure how, but we weren’t allowed to fight or have shouting in the house.
DEUTSCH: That’s a good rule to have. If you can enforce it. So you graduated from college. Let’s just go back to, were you particularly close to one or the other of your siblings?
CROWLEY: Me and my brother Mike, two years younger than me.
DEUTSCH: Is he coming to the dinner?
CROWLEY: I don’t know. He’s probably coming to the … if we do the Dead Man’s Run [organized by Patrick through the cemetery in 2011] again, they’re all coming back to do that again. I know my sisters are all going to come to the dinner.
DEUTSCH: That’s nice. Where do they all live? All over?
CROWLEY: My brother Tom lives in Hawaii. He moved there and never came back. Helen lives in Seattle. She’s two years older than me. Mike lives in northern California. Louise and Bill live outside Milwaukee; they’re the two younger brothers and sisters. Mary still lives in our hometown, Glenview. Ann lives in Sauganash in Chicago. John lives in Lake Bluff, outside Chicago. And Jim lives in Wilmette [Illinois].
DEUTSCH: It’ll be quite a Chicago thing, because Martha [Huizenga] is from Chicago also. She’s from South Side. College?
CROWLEY: While I was at John Carroll, I was thinking about applying to graduate school. The chairman of the Economics Department walked by and asked if I was interested in a graduate assistantship, which would be free tuition and a little bit of money on the side, and not too much to do. Great, OK, I’ll do that! So I stayed there and got my Master’s degree.
DEUTSCH: At John Carroll?
CROWLEY: At DePaul. My Master’s thesis was a linear programming model for the efficient distribution of school busing programs. Economically, it was a two-commodity model with different reshelves of inputs and demands.
DEUTSCH: What was the name of it again? “Linear programming model …”?
CROWLEY: That wasn’t the title. It was a linear programming model for economic distribution of a two-commodity model system. In a sense, you’ve got two products: white kids and black kids. They’re produced in different ratios in different resource centers. Their demand is within a tight range of ratios at different demand spots. So you have to get resources from here to there most efficiently.
DEUTSCH: OK, that’s above my pay grade.
CROWLEY: My brother read it. I gave it to him to proofread. He fell asleep on the first page.
DEUTSCH: OK, so you wrote your thesis, you graduated with a master’s degree. What happened then?
CROWLEY: I sent out 108 resumes for economic research jobs. I got 106 rejections. Two interviews I got was, one was my brother-in-law knew someone at Quaker Oats, got me an interview. And then when my dad heard I was sending out resumes, and heard I’d applied to the Rock Island Railroad, he said a friend of his was a trustee of the railroad, which was in bankruptcy at the time. They’d gone to law school together and he came home that day and said “You have an interview tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock.” So I went down to the interview and talked to a bunch of people and realized pretty quickly that I had whatever job I wanted in this place, really. So I decided to work for the general manager and a little think tank he was putting together about how to rescue the railroad. It had been in bankruptcy for quite a while. They were going into merger talks, and they quit investigating anything, and by the time ten years went by, the other side of the merger said “No thanks, you’re in terrible shape now.” And they went under shortly after that. But it was fun; I got to work for the general manager. He would say, “The green train’s not working. Figure out what’s wrong.”
DEUTSCH: It was kind of like a problem solving, that job?
CROWLEY: And every problem had three solutions. The track was in bad shape, had to be repaired. The cars were broken and needed repair, the engines were broken. He would say, “There’s no money. Next problem.” And it’d be the same thing. One time they had a new engineers’ contract that stipulated that the engineer got 20% more than anybody else on the train, but the engineers and the brakemen and the conductors don’t all get on at the same place, get on and get off at different places, so you have overlapping time cards to measure, and I was sent to this meeting with people from all over the country; it was a big railroad, the Rock Island, and it was superintendents from all over the country, and labor people, and accounting people, all these people in this room talking, and I’m thinking “what a fascinating problem. I wonder what they’re going to do?” It finally got quiet and someone, looked at me and said “What does the general manager want us to do?” I thought, “Oh, that’s why I’m here.” “I’ll have an answer for you tomorrow.” I came up with something overnight to solve it. It is sort of my nature. Problem solving is something I enjoy doing. I only worked there about three months. It was a neat job, but the railroad was obviously going to go under quickly. They taught us how to drive the railroads [engines] actually, because they thought a strike was coming. My dad was very jealous when he heard I’d learned how to drive an …
DEUTSCH: Oh, my husband would be very jealous.
CROWLEY: But right about that time my application to work for the government wound up in the right hands, and someone called me and said, “Are you still interested in working for the federal government?” Right about that time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was doubling in size because of the 1972 Natural Gas Act. And they said “Would you be interested in becoming an industry economist in Washington?” I thought, “That sounds cool.” I said, “Yeah”, so I moved here.
DEUTSCH: What year would that have been?
CROWLEY: 1979. January of 1979. My brother Tom at that time worked for Senator Inouye in the Senate Intelligence Committee. I moved in with him on Capitol Hill. He lived just a few doors down from the Hart Office Building on Maryland Avenue.
DEUTSCH: Senate Intelligence Committee, you said?
CROWLEY: Yeah. He lived in a basement apartment in an old townhouse. I moved in with him, and I’ve stayed on the Hill since then.
DEUTSCH: You don’t work for the government any more?
CROWLEY: No. I retired four years ago. He couldn’t talk about his job at all, so every now and then we’d be watching the news and he’d say something, and I realized, OK, that must … They’d say something about the new CIA charter, he’d say “That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” so I’d know that’s what he’s working on.
DEUTSCH: You liked living on the Hill, obviously.
CROWLEY: Yeah. I found my first apartment for myself within three-four months. My first apartment was at [Fifth] and A Streets SE. a little efficiency that had a glass wall across the middle of it, and a little back yard. I was very lucky. I moved here on a train with three steamer trunks with everything I owned in them. I moved into this apartment and I had the three steamer trunks and my brother insisted I buy a TV immediately, so I bought a little black and white TV. I remember watching “Night of the Living Dead.” I was sitting on the trunk, with the TV on another trunk, and I was one arm’s-length away with my hand on the dial, and when I would get too scared I would change the channel until I calmed down, then I’d turn it back. [both laugh]
The organizing dinner for the Literary Feast this year was in the house right next to the house that was my first apartment. I guess it’s no longer an apartment building, someone owned it and put it back to a single residence. [113 Fifth Street SE] is where I lived. When I heard someone talk about—you can get the hiss out of radiators by bleeding them, so one time in the middle of winter, it was hissing, so I started adjusting the little device. Not knowing what I was doing, I twisted it until I broke it and steaming hot water came shooting out all over the place. I put my hand on it to stop it. I scalded my hand. Eventually I had to go call the landlord and say, “There’s hot water and steam all over the apartment. What do I do?” It was midnight, and the entire building had to be drained. He was not happy with me.
DEUTSCH: No, I guess not. You moved. When did you get your house?
CROWLEY: Let me think. I moved from there … my next apartment was right across the street from the back door to the Old Naval Hospital: 115 E Street SE [correction: 915 E Street SE].
DEUTSCH: That’s a great address.
CROWLEY: It was kind of interesting to have that across the street every day. I lived there … and also a little back yard.
DEUTSCH: At this point did you have a dog? Did you have your dog?
CROWLEY: No. We had a little back yard, and when my neighbor convinced me one time that we should go get some manure for the garden, so we went some place and picked up a whole truckload of lamb manure, which really stinks. We had a lot of it, so our block smelled bad for months. After that I moved out to the suburbs, to Takoma Park, because I couldn’t afford around here. I didn’t like the suburbs; I didn’t feel like I got to know anybody. I had to commute down New Hampshire Avenue and North Capitol Street. I lived there maybe three years and moved back into the city. The house I bought was at 14th and C [Streets] SE. I remember bringing a friend of mine over—after I signed the papers, I brought a friend of mine over, showing him my new house, and the street was blocked off with yellow tape, because someone had been murdered that day. That was just the first … over a two-year period, 30 people were murdered within three blocks of my house.
DEUTSCH: So you were kind of at ground zero of the whole drug wars thing.
CROWLEY: Yeah. If I’d known it was a drug zone …
DEUTSCH: What year was that that you moved in, 1980?
CROWLEY: 1990.
DEUTSCH: That was still going on then! I think of all that drug stuff as having been in the 80s, but I guess it was still …
CROWLEY: It was very much the 90s in that area.
DEUTSCH: You said 30 people murdered within two years after you …
CROWLEY: Within two years there were 30 people murdered within two blocks of my house. I was keeping a loose count; “Oh, there’s another one.  That must be 18. There’s another one two blocks away, that must be 19.” Then Jim Myers wrote an article for Atlantic Magazine called “On the Death of 30 of my neighbors.” So we had the same count; we had never talked to each other about it. I remember seeing bodies at either end of my street. One of them was a drug dealer—it was all drug dealers killing each other, so there was a certain amount of … you didn’t feel unsafe, because it wasn’t random killing, it was drug dealers killing each other.
DEUTSCH: What kind of drugs was it?
CROWLEY: I suppose it was crack; I’m not sure. I used to walk to work, and one of the houses along, I guess it was 14th Street was the drug dealer’s house, and they would sit outside and they’d say Hello, and I’d be walking the dog, (I had a dog by then) I got my first Saint Bernard.
END OF TAPE 1/SIDE 1
TAPE 1/SIDE 2
DEUTSCH: Continuing with Patrick Crowley. In 1990 he moved to 14th and [C] Streets SE.
CROWLEY: I remember taking my dog for a walk, there was an open door, and she ran into this house, so I ran in after her. I got in the kitchen and I saw all these mean-looking guys, and I realized this is the drug dealer’s house. “I’ll be right out. Let me get my dog and I’ll be out of your hair in no time.” I think they were probably as surprised as I was. There was another house around the corner where the people would say hello to me all the time, and I didn’t want to be their friend, but I didn’t want them mad at me either, so every day I would say hello to these drug dealers. I think it was a house where the neighbors said they had killed a policeman. He had come to serve a warrant on someone at that house. I remember seeing a drug dealer killed at the end of the block. The police were cutting his clothes off to put a pressure thing around his leg. I remember thinking, he probably thought he was a really big hot shot, but here he is dying on the street and he’s not taking any of it with him, whatever he thought he had. Of course, none of us do. My brother Mike is a really outdoors person, out in northern California. He used to talk to me about going climbing on glaciers, or going out to the ocean, or the redwood forest. There’s a lot of outdoor stuff. I used to laugh: “My adventure this week is I ran to the Safeway and made it home safely.”
DEUTSCH: So it was while you lived there, you were two blocks from the cemetery.
CROWLEY: It was a little more than that, but right nearby. But I wasn’t going to the cemetery at first; I was going to Lincoln Park. I fell in with a bunch of guys there; sort of a gay group that would meet there at the cemetery. Six or seven people. We’d walk there. I remember one time my dog was chasing a German—a golden retriever. Ran in this big arc and I started calling my dog and she managed to stop, and the other dog ran into the street and got hit by a car. I remember thinking, “I don’t [like] this place. This is dangerous.” Some friends told me about Congressional Cemetery. Dave Bower, one of them, at Lincoln Park. So I started meeting him at the cemetery. It was a really cool place! Plus, it’s fenced; it was much, much safer for the dogs.
DEUTSCH: How did you start getting involved in the cemetery?
CROWLEY: I just started walking there. I didn’t know … I had no interest in cemeteries at the time, or tombstones or iconography, any of that stuff. It was just a neat place to walk. Of course, back then, the cemetery was not being cared for very well. There’s a whole history behind that. We can talk about if you want to in a minute. The grass was four or five feet high. You couldn’t see most of the tombstones. It was a great place for dogs; they loved to run through the brush, and create their own pathways and stuff. I think back then there were maybe 40 or 50 families who walked their dogs there regularly. It was a much smaller neighborhood group. There was a lot of dead trees there. The garbage cans weren’t being emptied. They were filling up with dog poop. I remember my dog used to eat the muck in the gutters, and then she’d throw up in the car on the way home. I started getting mad about that, and so we’d be walking at the cemetery, and she’d start eating the muck in the gutters again, and I’d get mad about it. I found myself getting more and more angry, thinking “Why don’t they fix this place?” Why doesn’t somebody empty the garbage, why don’t they do something? My anger kept rising until one day I realized, I don’t know, the bubble of anger burst and I realized there’s no “they” here!
By then I’d come to realize there was no management, active management, and there was no grounds people, no staff, just Jim Oliver, who was trying to run essentially the whole cemetery on a weekend morning. So I decided that if the muck in the gutters is bothering me, I’d have to something about it myself. So I brought a shovel, and I started shoveling away all the muck. There was a woman there before me. She had taken it upon herself to clear one of the pathways, so she’d bring a spade. She was digging away at the grass in one of the brick walkways. I’d stop by and chat with her all the time. I didn’t offer to help her, ever. I would just chat while she would work away, a couple of blocks, couple of feet at a time every day. She was sort of my inspiration.
DEUTSCH: Who was she, do you know?
CROWLEY: Her name has escaped me at the moment. The last time I heard of her, she was I think in Afghanistan running the only dog shelter in Afghanistan.
DEUTSCH: Oh my gosh!
CROWLEY: Maybe it was Iraq. She worked for the Corps of Engineers. And of course I can’t think of her name, but I’ll give it to you later. [The name is Jane Mergler.]
DEUTSCH: Yeah. So, slowly it dawned on you that there was no “there” there. You were it.
CROWLEY: Yeah. I just started bringing my shovel, shoveling stuff away, shoveling the muck out of the gutters so my dog wouldn’t eat it. The cemetery had no money then, so there’s no money … they’d mow the grass three times a year and then stop, because there was just no money. No money for anything else either. And again, the garbage wasn’t being emptied; all the garbage cans filled up with dog poop, all overflowing, and it was really looking hideous.
DEUTSCH: And smelling hideous, probably.
CROWLEY: Yeah. I went through the same process: why don’t they do something? Why don’t they pay the garbage bill? Why don’t they do something? Then of course, oh, there still is nobody here. It’s still us. So I went out and bought some big gloves and some big heavy garbage bags and a shovel and I knocked over all the 55-gallon drums of dog poop and shoveled them into small bags and sealed them. It was probably the nastiest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. But it’s also—I left out—one of the things I was most proud of.
DEUTSCH: I love that.
CROWLEY: One of the board members was there …
DEUTSCH: I have to ask one question. How many small bags do you think you filled?
CROWLEY: I think there were five garbage cans at the time. Each one probably would have been five or six bags.
DEUTSCH: And what did you do with the bags?
CROWLEY: I just left them where they were. I figured someone would come and move them later. I don’t who would have done that, since there wasn’t any staff. I remember there was a funeral going on; preparation for a burial, and the backhoe operator came over and he said to me, he was glad—he saw what I was doing, because he thought he was digging into something nasty, and he wasn’t sure what it was, because the breeze was blowing his way. It was a strong enough breeze that I could work there; it wasn’t that bad, and one of the old board members named Dick Stock was supervising apparently the burial preparation, and he came over to help me. He was an old guy, cigar in his mouth, he started holding the bags for me, and then the wind stopped blowing, and I had to drop the shovel and run 30 feet away; I was gagging, it was so bad, and he was standing there with the shovel, with the cigar in his mouth, looking like “What’s the problem?”
DEUTSCH: Maybe the cigar smoke.
CROWLEY: Oddly enough, Dick Stock was my first burial too. He died a couple of years—shortly after I joined the board, he passed away.
DEUTSCH: At that point did you ask to be on the board of directors?
CROWLEY: Not right away. I just kept walking the dog. One of the problems was the water line. There used to be a big 60-gallon tank up near the chapel. More people started walking their dog there. That area was getting really muddy, and I thought it would be nice to move it to some place less conspicuous than the front of the chapel. So I moved it down to (Jim Oliver was running the cemetery at the time, and I asked his permission) and I moved the tank down near the garage at the far east end. Almost immediately the water line stopped working down there. I tried to figure out what’s wrong with this thing. I dug a hole to get to where the spigot was. I dug down, maybe three-four feet down, like three feet wide or so, and then I started digging a trench trying to find the pipe, and I dug probably a 15-foot-long trench, four feet down, three feet wide, before I found where the connection was. It was very hot, and a lot of work. Then we had it repaired, and the plumbing company tried to charge us for digging the hole that I dug. Dealing with water issues is something I’ve been dealing with for 15 years there. And I still am, to this day. We still have water problems.
DEUTSCH: Although it looks so much better. Really.
CROWLEY: The whole cemetery looks so much better, yeah. It was one thing after another. Because there was no staff, I’d ask for keys to the shed. I’d need keys to the chapel, get the key to the water line. Eventually, I started collecting keys for the whole cemetery, and I started asking other dog walkers if they could help out on Saturdays, doing whatever the project was. Somebody told me about the yard sales that they’d done. Probably the Romeros, Christine and Victor, told me about the yard sales they used to do, so I’d say we should do that again. We did another one, I think it was in 2001. When I was on the board at that time, actually. I think we raised $2,500 for the first yard sale. We filled the chapel full of stuff, wall to wall. People just kept bringing stuff, out of nowhere, and every time I’d go to the cemetery to walk the dog, I’d see another pile of boxes outside the chapel doors. So I’d move them inside. It was interesting. I think a lot of people there were just looking for someone to take charge. There were a lot of volunteers just waiting to happen, when someone would say “Will you do this?” And so it was very easy to become the mayor of the cemetery because like myself “let’s do this, let’s do that.” Which is kind of funny since there was no staff, there was no management at the time, so I could pretty much do whatever I wanted to do. Whatever grounds thing I wanted to do, that’s what we did. Later on, when we got more organized, and we had a Grounds Committee, other people got to weigh in; it got more frustrating. What I wanted to do wasn’t necessarily what happened anymore.
DEUTSCH: At that time, who actually owned the cemetery? Was it …
CROWLEY: Christ Church owned it then, and still owns it. The cemetery was purchased in parcels in 1807 by vestry members of Christ Church. They bought it personally …
DEUTSCH: By individuals.
CROWLEY: Yeah. Then at some point they transferred it all. I think four years after they got the first square purchased, and they paid off their debts through site sales, they transferred it to the local Episcopal Church. I’ve always assumed they did that thinking that the Episcopal Church is a big entity and they’ll take care of it for the long run. Back in that era, cemeteries were ill-kept, ill-financed, and not healthy places either. They weren’t nice places. In fact, Pierre L’Enfant, who designed the city, did not want a cemetery in his city. He wanted them outside the bounds of the city. But he wasn’t on the City Council, so the first cemeteries were inside the city. I think Congressional was not one of them.
DEUTSCH: Rock Creek?
CROWLEY: No. That was outside the city. There’s a couple … there’s one over by …
DEUTSCH: In Georgetown there’s one.
CROWLEY: There was, but that wasn’t inside the city limits at the time. There was a cemetery up near 14th and H Streets. That was considered to be unsuitable spot. Apparently there was a high-water table there, too. It doesn’t seem like it’s high property or low property to me.
DEUTSCH: The vestry members deeded their … now Christ Church has the cemetery.
CROWLEY: Right. It was turned over to Christ Church on Capitol Hill. which was the only church on Capitol Hill at that time, I believe.
DEUTSCH: Only Episcopal church.
CROWLEY: I think the only church—on Capitol Hill. If you went to church, you went to Christ Church, which was at the Navy Yard at that time.
DEUTSCH: When did Congress get involved?
CROWLEY: Early on. I should know the dates, but I don’t. Right away, the vestry of Christ Church decided to set aside 300 burial sites for Congress. That was sort of a marketing ploy, to get congressmen to be buried there. They would set them aside, make them a special place among the burial grounds, and it worked. Congress did start burying people. The first burial was William Swinton, who was a stone carver on the Capitol building. He’s over near Hoover. I think the third burial was the wife of Thomas Tingey, who was the Commandant of the Navy Yard, who was one of the founders of the cemetery also.
DEUTSCH: Just one minute. William Swinton. He was the first burial?
CROWLEY: Right. He was actually buried two days before the cemetery officially opened.
DEUTSCH: What year was that?
CROWLEY: 1807.
DEUTSCH: He was a stone carver on the Capitol building. The other one you mentioned?
CROWLEY: I believe the third burial was Anna Thornton. Not Thornton, Anna Tingey, who was Commodore Thomas Tingey’s wife.
DEUTSCH: Was Commodore Tingey English?
CROWLEY: He was born in England, but he’d immigrated to the United States, and was the Commandant of the Navy Yard; the first Commandant of the Navy Yard. He lived there for 29 years, I believe. He’s buried right there in the Gate House, which at that time, there was no Gate House, so that would have been the number one spot in the cemetery, up in the very northwest corner. Cemeteries back then were laid out the same way many cities were, with the upper crust in the northwest, tradesmen and the poor in the southeast. If you go to the cemetery now and look around at the original square, you’ll see a lot of nice monuments up in the northwest part, and almost no monuments in the southeast part, where the tradesmen were buried. After she [Mrs. Tingey] died, Senator Uriah Tracy of Connecticut was buried up in the Northeast part of the cemetery. He was the first congressman buried there. So I guess the marketing ploy worked. Congress started using the cemetery, then there were so many high-end public funeral services in the first 15-20 years, that Congress started funding the infrastructure. So in the 1930s they built the public vault …
DEUTSCH: 1930s or 1830s?
CROWLEY: I’m sorry. 1830s. They wanted a suitable receiving vault to put the remains of congressmen who died in office. They’d be placed there until they could be transported home or buried someplace else, or buried at the cemetery. The public vault was built with congressional funds. Over a two year period, about $5,000—the original construction cost. It had an ornate iron or wrought iron fence around it, and big pillars up front. It was a place of stature back then. Congress helped fund the building of the iron fence along E Street and Potomac Avenue. They built the first gatehouse. They had an earmark for a fence that was built, and a huge storm came and knocked it out, and they paid for it again. The slate walkway was publicly funded. Congress started paying for the infrastructure because of all these public services that were being put there, and Congress was the one that started calling it The Congressional Burying Ground. The name had actually been The Washington Parish Burying Ground. Congress started using that as the name, and it stuck. So it’s still called Congressional Cemetery.
DEUTSCH: When did it start to slide … sounds like mid 19th century it was a pretty well tended, prominent place?
CROWLEY: Yeah, it was a very prominent burial ground. All of the movers and shakers in Washington wanted to be buried there. That’s why we have a lot of interesting history. We have ten of the first 20 mayors of Washington, three Secretaries of State, about 50 Revolutionary War veterans, a lot of the founders of the city, early land speculators, the people who built the Capitol, designed and built it. It is really a very interesting collection of people who built this country, and built the nation’s capitol. One of our board members, Sandy Schmidt, spent ten years going to the Library of Congress collecting the obituaries, which was an enormous amount of work. She collected about 20,000 obituaries, and donated that work to the cemetery. Because of her work, we have the stories to tell, so we can put together all these different themes of stories, which is really the underpinning for all the restoration work. Why do you bother fixing something if it doesn’t speak to you somehow? Using those obituaries, we can tell the stories, and that makes it important, and that’s how you get money to fix it.
DEUTSCH: Why did it start to go downhill?
CROWLEY: I think that the cemetery was a big operation for a small parish, was the basic problem. There’s letters to the editor of the local paper going back to the 1850s, 1820s even, complaining about the condition of the cemetery. It didn’t take long for things to get out of control for a small parish. I think that’s been a problem all through its history: ups and downs, depending on the wealth of the parish. In the 1970s, the cemetery started swamping the parish. From talking to vestry members who were around then, they spent all of their time dealing with the cemetery matters. There was not enough money, and they eventually had to make the difficult decision to put their resources toward the dead parishioners or the live parishioners. Of course, they had to choose the live ones. They fired all the staff, and put the cemetery on a volunteer basis. They transferred the cemetery’s endowment fund to the church, which probably was a very difficult thing for the parish to go through. Their parents were buried there. It was a very difficult period for the church.
DEUTSCH: I assume it was difficult legally to wrest the endowment fund from the cemetery.
CROWLEY: Right. They owned property. There were three endowment funds held by National Capitol Bank. The bank was the trustee, and it was established for the care of the cemetery, and the bank would not release those funds. They essentially told the vestry that “we will defend our trustee position, and will bankrupt these accounts before we give them up. They are here for the cemetery, not for the parish.” Those were the only endowments that were held back for the cemetery. Everything else was transferred to the church.
DEUTSCH: Are those endowments still in effect?
CROWLEY: No. We transferred them into the current endowment fund that’s held by the National Trust.
DEUTSCH: National Trust for Historic Preservation.
CROWLEY: Right. That’s a matching grant that was established by Congress in 1999. By transferring the $50,000 endowment fund, the value of it doubled. When we put it in the matching grant, it became $100,000.
DEUTSCH: What year was it that the National Trust put the cemetery on its list? Were you involved with that effort to get the National Trust …
CROWLEY: No. That was before me. I should know that.
DEUTSCH: That was before you?
CROWLEY: Yeah. It was put on the Eleven Most Endangered list. I think that was twelve years ago maybe. 1996 or 1997.
DEUTSCH: So it was just as you were getting involved.
CROWLEY: Yeah. Jim Oliver was responsible for that.
DEUTSCH: Jim Oliver was a member of Congress? Or a staff member?
CROWLEY: No. He was a Republican clerk. Right on the floor. He was telling congressmen coming in what was going on. He brought pages—from the early burials were pages, and he was interested in the page program. He brought pages over to see the cemetery and that’s how he got interested. Jim got us our first million dollars in the endowment fund, from Congressman Tom Walsh from New York. Because the cemetery had bad times in the 90s with the manager who embezzled everything. Apparently he was not at as good at horse betting as he thought he was.
DEUTSCH: I don’t know about that.
CROWLEY: They hired this guy, John Hanley. He was apparently a pretty good manager for a while but then got into debt problems with horseracing or something. Probably, as most embezzlements start, he was borrowing it.
DEUTSCH: Hired by Christ Church—to manage the cemetery?
CROWLEY: Yeah. Actually, no. Back in the 1970s, the church fired all the employees and went to a volunteer basis, and of course, who’s going to come and volunteer to mow the 35 acres in June? Not many people. So the cemetery went downhill really fast. A group of Capitol Hill residents saw what was happening, and they formed the Association in 1976. They formed the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery. For one dollar, I think it was, they took over everything about the cemetery. It would have been the Association that hired John Hanley in the 90s. From what I’ve heard, he did a good job for several years. Then things got bad. I remember seeing a letter in the Archives from the chairman of the board at the time, Joe Pokorney to the other board members, saying, “We only have four dollars in our checking account, and Mr. Hanley can’t explain why.” Four days later, Mr. Hanley has resigned from the cemetery. But because of that, when Congress gave us the first million dollars for the endowment fund, they didn’t trust the cemetery, so they set it up so that there would be a transfer from the Architect of the Capitol to the National Trust, and they would hold and manage the fund on our behalf.
DEUTSCH: Congress gives a million dollars to the National Trust for the Cemetery.
CROWLEY: Right. And that came up a couple of years ago …
DEUTSCH: And actually, that was probably a good thing because it then got the National Trust involved.
CROWLEY: Right. The issue of who owns the endowment fund came up a couple of years ago. I think ultimately it was decided that the cemetery does not own the endowment fund; the National Trust owns it. It’s for our benefit. We had to take it off our books. That became an issue with accounting and the audit. “What happened to all this money? You had it last year, where did it go?” Well, it really wasn’t ours. It was someone else’s money.
DEUTSCH: We don’t have it, but actually we never had it.
CROWLEY: Right.
DEUTSCH: The movement to the Executive Director. How did that happen? Once you have this fund in place, then you can hire staff?
CROWLEY: No. The fund specifically states it can only be used for contracted maintenance. They didn’t want any chance of people pocketing money anymore. They had to have a paper trail. There’s a contract; someone did something. It specifically excluded personnel and capital improvements. The cemetery struggled along with part-time managers for a while. We had some good people. I remember Bob Dean was the manager when I first got involved. He seemed to do a good job. They couldn’t pay much, and it was only part-time. It’s a lot to keep up with, and we went through a number of managers. We had one manager; his filing system was to put everything in the same file, so at least nothing was misplaced. It was all in one place.
DEUTSCH: Sounds like my kind of filing.
CROWLEY: We had a manager, I guess right around toward the end of the 1990s when I started walking my dog there. She was eating the muck in the gutters …
DEUTSCH: What was this dog’s name?
CROWLEY: That was Shannon. She’d also go to the mud puddle over near the Mausoleum Row, and walk through the mud. She’s longhaired St. Bernard, so she’d get filthy, and I started getting really mad about that. I’d have to hose her off, so I started thinking that the mud puddle annoyed me a lot, and the brick burial vaults were also starting to collapse, and I got to liking them and thought “This is a shame. Someone should do something about this.” At the time, the dog-walkers were sort of a silent fact in the cemetery. Nobody wanted to acknowledge that it was actually happening, so I decided that I wanted to get on the board to do something about that mud puddle, do something about fixing the burial vaults, and represent the dog-walkers on the board.
I wrote a letter to the board asking them if there was a vacancy; could I join the board? Which happened in 2001. I had no idea how much it was going to change my life. Up until then, I was only seeing it from the dog-walkers’ perspective. The garbage wasn’t being fixed; the grass wasn’t being mowed. I wasn’t thinking of it as an organization really. Right about then, Linda Harper came in to the cemetery as well. She’d worked with the National Trust. Apparently they saw the collapsing of the organization and they asked her to go do something about it, trying to help the organization. She helped in the effort to get a Strategic Plan organized, working with some of the board members there, Sandy Schmidt and Dick Stock in particular. They put together the first Strategic Plan. Which was essentially: “We’ve got to fix the stones, we’ve got to mow the lawn.” Pretty basic stuff at that time.
DEUTSCH: But she was working for the National Trust?
CROWLEY: I don’t know if she was actually working with them at the time or not. She may have been an independent consultant by then. She joined the board, and within two-three months I joined the board. We were both pretty new at that time. It was an interesting dynamic. She came in with instructions to organize us as an organization, so she was looking at strategic planning, strategic partnerships, and making the system work as an organization, and I came in from a grounds perspective: “How do we fix this problem on the grounds? How do we fix this other problem on the grounds? How do we organize the volunteers we have, and the dog-walker groups do things?” We came at it, she from the top down, and me from the bottom up.
END OF TAPE 1/SIDE 2
TAPE 2/SIDE 1
DEUTSCH: Patrick has joined the board. You joined the board in 2001, and working from the bottom up, with all kinds of ideas about how the grounds could be improved. Meanwhile Linda Harper is …
CROWLEY: She came in as chairperson , and Melvin Mason, who’d been on the board, who’d also done a lot of managing of burials when something came up. He had called me and asked me to be the recording secretary of the association. So I joined the board, and the first two things I did right away, one was I decided to do a fundraiser for the endowment fund among the dog-walkers. I called it the K Club. The K didn’t refer to canine, it referred to a thousand. My thought was, if you’re going to be in the K Club, you had to donate a thousand dollars.
DEUTSCH: How many members did you get to do that?
CROWLEY: Eventually, we also had Half-K members and Quarter-K members [laughs]. But we did raise $20,000 for the endowment fund. That was one of the first things I did for the cemetery. Also I realized they hadn’t been selling sites actively for a while, because they didn’t really know where the available ones were. My second project was to go through the Range Book and create a map of all the available sites, which I did on an Excel spreadsheet.
DEUTSCH: That seems so incredible.
CROWLEY: It took me three months to get the basic map down, and another three months to check it one time. I ended up putting symbols in each of the little cells in the Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet actually looks like a map. In my job I worked with Excel spreadsheets, so it was natural for me to use that as the tool. Sort of like—a carpenter sees the answer to every problem is a nail and a hammer. I put an X in every cell where there was someone buried. Then, maybe an S where it was sold and never used.
DEUTSCH: Were there a lot of those?
CROWLEY: There were about 2,000 sold and never used. Some of them were parts of family groups, where there were some family members buried, but there was still some space. I had to come up with another nomenclature so later on I could count all the cells and say “There are a thousand cells that say V for vestry. There’s a thousand that say W for walkway.” But color-coded it was kind of interesting. When I actually printed it all out, it took up a space on the wall twelve feet wide and nine feet tall. One of the interesting things is—the numbering system changes. At one point there’s a thing called section A. There’s four burial sites in section A going north to south. Across the street there’s section B that only has three, so on the Excel spreadsheet, your numbering system changes now. You jump from site number 152 to 154, and say “How do I account for this change?” Then later on, the question was “Why is there a section A and B and C?” It took me quite a while, looking at old maps to realize those were the old sidewalks, at the edge of the property line. In the 1850s, I believe it was, Congress passed a law that said every time the cemetery acquired the property on both sides of the street, they could have the right-of-way in between. Then, in another 20 years, Congress said you could actually use that space. I think they were going to reserve it for Congressional purposes or something. There had been a sidewalk at one point, and the cemetery numbering system jumped over the sidewalk. At some point they took out the sidewalk to use it, and so they had another numbering system for that little space.
DEUTSCH: What did you find in terms of available sites? Were there a lot?
CROWLEY: It depends on how you count them. How you count “using a space.” Lots of cemeteries eventually use up their walkways, like Oak Hill [in Georgetown] is doing now. I think there is about 2,000 available sites.
DEUTSCH: Are now 2,000 available sites?
CROWLEY: Probably in that range. But of course, you don’t put them on the market at one time, either. You reserve areas. There’s about 2,000 sites that have been sold and never used. It was a very useful tool. One reason I know the cemetery so well is the map is in my head. I created a map. Someone says they want to bury someone over in … or buy a burial site over near, and they’ll name some place. I’ll know “No, there’s nothing there.” I already know. I’ve studied a lot of maps. Every time I see an old map, I look for the cemetery to see what does it tell me. I’ve spent a lot of time out in the yard looking for … why is something the way it is? Why are the mausoleums lined up the way they are? Not on the street. From studying old maps I realized that the mausoleums are set up on what would have been the property line at the edge of the road. Later on we acquired the road. Why are the storm catch basins where they are? It is all part of the evolution of the acquisition …
DEUTSCH: When did the jail join … this isn’t really relevant, but when did the jail become part of that?
CROWLEY: The jail was built in the early 1970s. Which the cemetery opposed ferociously. Before that there was …
DEUTSCH: DC General was down there, but not that close.
CROWLEY: The Gallinger Hospital had been in the spot where the jail is. In fact, as part of my research, I went to the Surveyor’s Office. I discovered an old map there that they let me see. Looking at Reservation 13, which is that whole area between … from the cemetery all the way down to East Capitol Street. I started looking at what was there, on Reservation 13. It was the hospital, the crematorium, the jail, the potters’ field, the smallpox hospital. I realized, in the 1800s, if you had to go to Reservation 13 for any reason, it was not good.
DEUTSCH: It was not a pleasant reason. There was no good reason to go to Reservation 13.
CROWLEY: No. And there was a good chance you weren’t leaving Reservation 13.
DEUTSCH: The Cemetery opposed the jail, but obviously lost.
CROWLEY: Right. When we were rebuilding the roads, I remember at the east end, for years I’d seen through the asphalt that had worn away. There’s these granite blocks underneath the road. I remember thinking, a granite block road is expensive road to build. Why would that be at the east end? Why would they have put expensive material at the back end of the cemetery? Didn’t make any sense to me. For years, every time I walked my dog past there, I’d look at these little granite blocks and think, “What was going on? Why aren’t these up at the front gate?” When we started tearing apart the road to put the new roads in a couple of years ago, we discovered there were thousands of these blocks under the roads. I told the construction company to stop and I put out a call to the dog-walkers for volunteers to salvage these things, so for two weekends in a row, we had 50 dog-walkers out there with picks and shovels. We pulled thousands and thousands of blocks out of the roads and piled them …
DEUTSCH: How big were the blocks?
CROWLEY: They’re about ten inches square. Probably weighed ten to twenty pounds apiece. It was hard work. I stayed there with the groups. As dog-walkers were working, I didn’t feel I could leave since I’d asked them to come. At the end of the day I couldn’t move my arms. Really, my arms were down my side. I was so exhausted I couldn’t pick up a stone.
DEUTSCH: Did you ever figure out what the blocks were?
CROWLEY: Yeah. Nick Sunt, who’d seen an old map of the cemetery in a book called Small—no, by a guy named Small—owns a collection of maps. I think the book is called “Washington in Maps.” I have a copy of it at home. [The book being referenced is Washington in Maps, by Iris Miller.] He said that looking carefully at that map you can see that at one time there was a wharf on the end of G Street going out into the river. From other maps I’d seen, there was a powder magazine where Gallinger Hospital had been, where the jail is now. And piecing things together, during the construction work we’d found really, really soft soil. The construction trucks would sink into the ground because we were right on the river, so it occurred to me the powder magazines are offloading on the river on the wharf must have sunk into the roads, so they put in a granite-block road to support the weight for the powder magazines to get to the—the carts to get to the powder magazine. That’s what is so much fun about the cemetery.
DEUTSCH: Right. It’s like an archaeological dig, almost. There’s so much history there.
CROWLEY: You see the artifact of the stones in the road. You see an old map that shows there was a powder magazine …
DEUTSCH: What did you do with the old stones, once you got them up?
CROWLEY: We piled them alongside the road then we salvaged them, put them in a big pile back by the garage. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with them, but they’re historic fabric that predates the cemetery; we should do something with them. The thought is, when we get the money, to put them in the entrances to the driveways into the cemetery. But then, each one of them has to be cut. It would be an expensive process, so maybe they’ll be used as more of an architectural landscape feature somewhere. We had them all piled up and when they were excavating another part of the road, I told the paving company not to send any of that to the dump. Pile it all over there and I would get volunteers to comb through it and save as much as we could. The next day they hauled them all, huge piles, off to the dump. I was so furious. I saw it in the morning, and I demanded they get the foreman on site immediately to talk to me and I told him I wanted someone fired. “I told you specifically, ‘Do not throw these away.’” Because I want to go through them, and they didn’t. We probably lost thousands of them.
DEUTSCH: You still have some.
CROWLEY: Yeah. We have probably four or five thousand of them. But, ten or twenty dollars apiece; that’s a lot of assets to haul off. They did not fire anybody.
DEUTSCH: Did you have the satisfaction of at least not rehiring that company again?
CROWLEY: No. That was the same paving company. They talked me down.
DEUTSCH: Other major parts of your service on the board? Other major moments?
CROWLEY: We did start doing the yard sales then. That was fun, because the community really responded. We would fill the chapel full of stuff; wall-to-wall. Then we’d have to haul it out to the front and label everything. I remember I had a collection of little tin cans I’d gotten. I donated them to the yard sale and I went through very carefully to remember “This can was a $4 can; this can was a $3.50 can.” So I labeled them, all of them the amount that I’d paid for them. At some point I was busy just hauling stuff to the street, and I wasn’t really paying attention. The pricing committee put 50 cents per can on the table.
DEUTSCH: But they probably all sold.
CROWLEY: Yeah. It’s interesting. Some of the stuff, you think, this is just complete junk. “Who would buy this?” Sold right away. Someone donated an exercise machine. I thought “This should raise a lot of money!” I put a $150 price tag on that. As the day went along, I realized I’ve got to haul that thing out of here if it doesn’t sell.
DEUTSCH: Normally, it’s 25 bucks, or 20?
CROWLEY: If anybody looks at it, they can have it.
DEUTSCH: You’re raising money.
CROWLEY: By then, I sort of took over burials as well. I remember one of the first ones; I was watching the backhoe operator dig the hole, and there were some large stones in the ground, underground, carved stones, and I said “What are those doing under there? Under the dirt?” He said “Those are just corner markers. We just leave them in the ground and bury them. They’re a maintenance hazard. I looked at him and realized “No, this is historic material. You can’t bury them. Get them out of the hole and don’t ever do that again.” This is historic material. You can’t be just tossing it in the hole. That was my first awakening that there were historic preservation issues here. It looked like a neat stone. “Why are you throwing that away, essentially, by burying it in the ground?” One of the first cremations site burials was Dick Stock, the former board member, or he was a board member when he died, actually. He was a real nice guy. His concern was to put trees back on the cemetery. I think in the 1990s they had tried to kill off the vines around the trees by spraying herbicide. That eventually killed the trees. Ten years later the trees were all dying.
DEUTSCH: So he died, and was buried there?
CROWLEY: Right. I had to go and actually dig the hole. Find a site for him and dig the hole myself.
DEUTSCH: This is a site for the ashes?
CROWLEY: Yeah.
DEUTSCH: Boy, that’s a lot.
CROWLEY: They all know when they come to visit, they have to go to the cemetery for a tour, though.
DEUTSCH: You dug the hole for Dick Stock …
CROWLEY: Yeah. I had to go find a place for him, and dig the hole for him. That’s the first time I ever actually buried somebody. I remember about a week or so later, I was talking to a reporter. We were standing on the main road and this older gentleman was coming down the street, and he looked like Dick Stock. My first thought was “What are you doing up here? Get back where you belong.”
The whole burial process I find very interesting, and a very rewarding experience, because it’s the final gift you give someone, to prepare their final resting place. I find it a very spiritual thing to do. I remember one time in the winter, there was another cremation site; it had snowed, there was a lot of snow on the ground, so I went over there and dug the hole through the snow, and I put a bunch of hay out so the family could get to the site off the road. I spread a bunch of pebbles on the main road so they wouldn’t slide down into the chapel. I did several hours of work to get the site ready for this family. They drove up to the cemetery, took one look at the snow, rolled down the window, and handed their mother’s ashes out the window and said “Would you take care of it”? They left, left me standing there, holding their mother’s ashes.
DEUTSCH: You were it.
CROWLEY: I’m very very close to my mom, and it just really hurt me that they would treat her that way. I walked her back to the site and buried her, and said some prayers. I spent some time at the gravesite with her. Then I buried her. It was a very rewarding experience for me. There was another burial near Tuesnelda [the gravesite of Tuesnelda Wilhemina Agnes Langley] on the 19th Street, middle of 19th Street between H and G. A man was going to bury his sister. I told him that the fee was $400. He said “Who’s going to do that?” And I said “I’ll do it myself.” He said “How much of that do you get?” I said it’s $400 to the cemetery. He kept saying “How much do you get?” I finally realized he meant personally. “I’m a volunteer, I get nothing.” So he said he would come help me dig the hole. I said “No, you don’t have to. We’ll do it, don’t worry.” But he insisted. So the morning of the burial I got the tools and showed him the exact spot, and he dug the hole for his sister. I could tell from him that it was a very rewarding experience for him to do that for his sister. His family showed up, and one of his relatives was an Elvis impersonator so he sang the “Our Father” as an Elvis impersonator, which was bizarre. Bill Fecke was our manager at the time, part-time manager. I was out by the grounds. It was a very hot day in July. The grandmother was there, and she started feeling ill. We had a walkie-talkie and I got on the walkie-talkie and said “Bill, get some water and some chairs out here right away.” I’m watching her, watching her, and got back on the walkie-talkie. “Forget about the water. Call an ambulance. Now. We don’t want her dying in the cemetery.” They’ll be happy to take care of her over at Sibley …
DEUTSCH: She was OK?
CROWLEY: Yeah. Watching that experience, I thought “That’s a neat thing to be able to offer people; to bury your own family member.” So I started offering that to people. Sort of judge my feeling of this family and generally, if it was a son, I would offer if they would like to help me dig the site. It’s still going to cost you $400, but …
DEUTSCH: You’re right. In our kind of life where we’re so removed from everything. Everything is so antiseptic. It is a very profound thing.
CROWLEY: The current management doesn’t like the idea because they don’t think it’s—it creeps them out.
DEUTSCH: I remember when I was there, when we were interviewing Cindy [Hays, who served four years as executive director of the cemetery Association], and she said “I don’t like funerals.” Remember? She’s probably away off that, but, it was a slightly odd of someone to say when they’re interviewing for …
CROWLEY: I’ve thought about that since then, and wonder “How did we not catch that when we interviewed her?” There’s a lot of tombstones out here; it’s clearly a cemetery.
DEUTSCH: She definitely put it out there.
CROWLEY: Yeah, she did, when we interviewed her. One of her first burials, in fact. I was still working on it; I had a conference I had to be at. I essentially said, “They’re coming at nine o’clock. Good luck. You’ll figure it out.” And I left.
DEUTSCH: I guess she did.
CROWLEY: Yeah. It is a very rewarding thing to prepare someone’s burial site; a very spiritual feeling. I remember when we did, I brought Frank Devlin on the board. I saw him and his son with a shovel and rakes one time. Whenever I see someone I don’t know working in the cemetery, I’d stop and say “What are you doing? I’m Patrick Crowley. I run the grounds here,” and he said he and his son had been coming for years to do their family site. He was an accountant with DeLoitte & Touche, so I got him to join our board as the treasurer. He died in 2007 quite unexpectedly, and I offered his son the opportunity to help prepare the site. It was a very private burial. They put his dad, they put Frank’s ashes in the ground. I guess he liked to collect tools, different kinds of tools, so they also put in the gravesite a little tool kit. I think, very rewarding. The whole burial business is … one time we dug a grave—for a regular grave you have to have a backhoe operator do it. It’s fun watching them, because they’re really artists with digging tools. The gravesites are right next to each other, three feet wide exactly.
DEUTSCH: So you have to do it precisely.
CROWLEY: It’s got to be very precise. Otherwise you’re encroaching on someone else’s site. You’re going to hit somebody or ten years from now someone else will be buried and they won’t fit. One time a black snake crawled into one of the holes. It was a big snake. We called Animal Control to tell them there’s a snake in the hole, can you come and help us? They said, “You should call the cemetery management.” “I am the cemetery management! I am not going down in that hole …”
DEUTSCH: “I don’t do snakes.”
CROWLEY: Another time a large black snake had crawled into the shed, up near the gatehouse. It was summertime, and I went into the shed. I was cleaning … rearranging things, and I just had shorts and sandals on. I moved this large box and there was this huge black snake there. Instinctively, I learned how to do the Irish jig instantly.
DEUTSCH: I suppose one thing about burying ashes, as opposed to a traditional burial, is that individuals can maintain a little more control. In other words, you or my son could dig a hole big enough for some ashes, whereas you’re not going to dig the hole for the, you know …
CROWLEY: Right. I remember early on when Bob Dean was still the manager. He dug a hole. I watched him put the ashes in, then we went back to the gatehouse. He was looking around; he was doing the paperwork, looking around, looking around, and he said, “Oh no. The check for the payment is wrapped in the wrapper that the urn was in.” So we had to go back to the gravesite, dig it up, open the wrapping, and there was the payment for the gravesite, and the transfer papers that allowed us to actually bury him. An important lesson!
DEUTSCH: Very interesting. So what are the lessons that you’ve learned from working in a cemetery? I’m sure lessons that you didn’t expect to …
CROWLEY: One of them is: keep your mouth shut until you understand all that’s going on. That I learned from the dog-walkers’ experience. Since I’d started organizing the dog-walkers, and once I joined the board, I realized some of the bigger pictures of financing the organization. I started buttonholing all the dog-walkers I didn’t know to say “Are you a member? Want to join? We need your dues.” There were some people who didn’t believe … it was always a public space, and I had no right to ask them to pay. There were a number of confrontations. My own confrontations where “Yes, you do have to pay. Yes, I can tell you that you have to pay.”
DEUTSCH: I was interested … my brother-in-law was staying here at some point. He had his dog, and went over on a Sunday—he honestly didn’t know. Someone stopped him. He said “I didn’t know. I just didn’t know. I saw all these people walking their dogs; I thought, “Great.”
CROWLEY: I was talking to some people one time. Two people I didn’t know. I asked them if they were members. The girl who was standing there said she’d heard that they weren’t actually collecting because nobody really knew what was going on and you didn’t have to pay. I said, “No, you do have to pay. I’m the chairman.”
In fact, one time, when a Smithsonian group was there doing the work vaults, which is another whole interesting story … Some guy came and parked a van right in front of the chapel. I asked him to move it someplace else. At that time cars were allowed in. He said, “You can’t tell me where to park. I’ll park where I want to.” I said “Yes I can. I operate the cemetery. There’s a reason why we don’t want you to park there.” He started to walk away and turned around and cursed at me and said, “You can’t tell me where to park. I’ll park wherever I damn please.” I said “There’s a good reason we don’t want …” and I explained to him again. He started walking away, then turned around and started cursing at me even more. I’d been there since eight o’clock in the morning doing this exhibit, anthropological work. I hadn’t eaten all day and I was tired, and I was hungry, and suddenly this guy pushed me too far and I started to walk towards him thinking “This guy is going to get hurt now. He’s crossed the border.” Luckily, Doug Ailes of the Smithsonian was an anthropologist working on it, and he must have seen what was going on. He said “Mr. Crowley, can I talk to you about something?” I had the presence of mind to say, “He’s more important” and turned around whatever he wanted to ask. Which probably saved me from getting hurt, actually. The disrespect was what triggered me.
DEUTSCH: I’m sure you do encounter that some.
CROWLEY: Back to the lessons learned. Whenever there’d be an altercation between dogs, and the dog-walkers would complain, usually you’d hear one side and you’d think “That’s outrageous!’ and I would try to do something about it. Then later on, I’d hear the other side of the story, and it was a completely different story, nothing like the first one. It took me a while of people being angry with me before I figured I just had to keep my mouth shut until I hear what the other side is.
DEUTSCH: There’s always two sides.
CROWLEY: There’s always two, and they don’t sound anywhere like each other. I remember one time we had a restoration company working on the yard, and the owner of the company … I always keep very much in touch with the contractors. I talk to them, “What are you doing? Why are you doing? What are the materials? What is the procedure?” I just enjoy that a lot. So I get to know all the contractors. One time, the contractor for restoration work said that some dog had charged at him that morning. If one of his guys got bit, he said that would be a problem. I took that to mean he would walk off the site. It was the same “America’s Treasures” grant. I thought, this is important. We can’t have that happening. I told some people about it, and they said “Whose dog was it?” Since I knew most of the dog-walkers at the time I said “Oh, that was Greg’s dog”, or whoever it was. Word got around, and someone put out a list-serve thing that Greg’s dog had been a bad dog, and we should all be careful about this.
About a week or so later I saw him in the morning, so I walked over to talk to him. I was just going to say “It’s not your dog in particular we’re worried about. It’s a generic thing. It’s going to happen to somebody.” He immediately started yelling at me—he’s a big guy. He towered over me and asked me if I was a lawyer. I said no, and he said he was going to sue me for slander, and started yelling at me. I was just thinking, “My dad was much worse than you are; you don’t frighten me.” Other people jumped to my defense. I actually didn’t have to say anything. Then when I went back to the gatehouse it started bothering me more and more, and I thought “If someone threatens to sue me, I’m going to lock the gates and nobody walks here until the threat is gone.” We’re a community. If there’s a lawsuit that hurts the cemetery, we all lose our privileges here. I had five lawyers call me the next day to say they’d defend me for free. First of all, you cannot slander a dog. The truth is, there’s a defense against slander anyway. [both laugh]
It’s been a wonderful experience with the cemetery. The way the community comes together. Every time I’d ask for help, the answer was “yes.” When it was “no”, it was “I’m already doing something for another volunteer group somewhere else that day.” Moving from just being a member to being on the board, we start to see things from a different perspective, from the organization’s point of view. People would send me emails all the time that another stone fell over, over near some place, near some tree. I think “We’ll add it to the list; maybe we’ll get to it in ten years. But that’s not a priority right now. It’ll stay on the ground for a long time. It won’t get any worse. It’s on the ground.”
DEUTSCH: Right. We’ll do what we can.
CROWLEY: You start wearing a lot of hats. Writing the newsletter. The newsletter hadn’t been put out for years. I took that over and started putting the newsletter together. You started thinking we need publication times. When’s it going to come out? So I have to be thinking two or three months …
DEUTSCH: Who’s going to write it? How are we going to get it out?
CROWLEY: Yeah. What’s it going to cost? All the different things that happen with the cemetery. People started asking me to give talks at different preservation groups and different community groups. So you start preparing comments and remarks. What do you want to tell people? What don’t you want to tell them? In 2003 I put together a Spring Festival to highlight the cemetery. We had several organizations participate, like stone carvers, things like that. We had several hundred people come to the cemetery that day. I hired seven actors to portray different characters; like Elbridge Gerry and Matthew Brady and Anne Royall.
DEUTSCH: Who’s Anne Royall?
CROWLEY: She was a muckraking journalist, sort of pioneering women’s journalism.
DEUTSCH: She’s buried there?
CROWLEY: Yeah. She was sued by P.T. Barnum for being a scold. She lost the case. At that time, the punishment for scolding was being dunked in the river. Which is what they did to witches. If you floated, you weren’t a witch.
DEUTSCH: Did they dunk her in the river?
CROWLEY: No.
END OF TAPE 2/SIDE 1
TAPE 2/SIDE 2
DEUTSCH: OK, talking with Patrick. How did the Smithsonian get involved with the cemetery?
CROWLEY: They got involved with some of the restoration work on the burial vaults. That was one of the reasons I joined the cemetery, was to preserve the old, the big burial vaults. Because they’re really a signature piece of the cemetery’s whole ambiance. That slate walkway is where the prominent people of the city were buried. So if you walked down that walkway, you’re at the high end of Washington D.C. society. Some of those were falling apart, including the public vault. One of our …
DEUTSCH: The public vault being where paupers were buried?
CROWLEY: No. Where members of Congress would be held. It was an ornate big deal back then. Congress paid for the public vault to be built. In 2002 or 2003 I got an email from one of our dog-walkers who said she’d thought of a way we could probably get $50,000. Was I interested? I said “Yes, who are you”? because it was a screen name; someone with AOL. Turned out she worked for a congressman. She, working with him, put a $50,000 earmark in for the restoration, some work at the cemetery. One of the committee members for the Appropriations Committee came through. I gave him a tour of the cemetery. We talked to the conservator, who was on the grounds there at the time. I sort of alerted him, saying, “I don’t care what you’re doing on Tuesday afternoon. You’re giving a tour with me.” When he left, he went back and talked to the congressman also, and it went from $50,000 to $100,000 earmark. That was our first congressional earmark of the modern era. That was through Sam Farr of California.
Part of that work, we did five burial vaults and part of the wall. When we opened up the first burial vault, the Coombe Vault, which is near the gate on E Street along the slate walkway. It’s a little square brick box at the end of the walkway. Not the wall, but the box itself. We opened up that door, which probably hadn’t been opened in 70 or 80 years. The inside was a mess. It looked like it had been churned up and burned. It was terrible; I didn’t know what to do. Before the stone guys could get in to repair the walls, you’ve got to remove that stuff, human remains. I was talking to my mom about it; she was on the park board of my hometown for 30 years, and was very instrumental in doing some of the stuff there. In our hometown there’s a naturalist. My mom helped create a nature center for him. He was the guy who explored Alaska and told Secretary Seward that it’s a good deal: buy it! So we bought Alaska because of this guy’s research. I talked to my mom about this burial thing, opening it, and she said “Why don’t you call Doug Owsley from the Smithsonian? He’d be interested.” I told Mom, “We’re just a little cemetery. The Smithsonian is not going to care.” She said “Yeah, yeah, you should call him!” So to placate my mom solely, I called the Smithsonian. After my third call or so, I got through to him. He sounded interested.
DEUTSCH: What was his role at the Smithsonian?
CROWLEY: He’s one of their forensic anthropologists. He’s a world-renowned guy. When the FBI needs to solve a mystery, he’s one of the people they call to identify bones. He’s extremely busy, going all over the country to identify bones from places. I talked to him on the phone and I thought, “He’s saying the right things, but I don’t think he’s really interested.” I asked, “Can you send some interns to help us?” And he said, “Oh no, Mr. Crowley, we’ll have five world-class experts at your cemetery.” And he did—he brought the best from the Smithsonian. We opened up the vault, and we went down inside, and they started going through, with little trowels and brushes, cataloging every single thing that came out, which included a zinc liner for a coffin. At one point, he came to the door of the vault, which is down below; so you could only see his head at the door. He was holding a gold upper denture in his hand. He was all excited. He said this had to be one of the wealthiest people in the country for them to have gold dentures. It was a real fascinating project. He’s fun to work with; the Smithsonian—they’re all great to work with. But he’s very good at making sure everybody’s involved. He would say “Mr. Crowley, put some gloves on and get down here.”
DEUTSCH: What was his name?
CROWLEY: Doug Owsley.
DEUTSCH: How do you spell the last name?
CROWLEY: O-W-S-L-E-Y. He’d say, “Mr. Crowley, would you put some gloves on and come down here?” I kind of feel like my role [is] to glad-hand and make sure everybody’s feeling good about what they’re doing.
DEUTSCH: But it was kind of neat that he pulled you in.
CROWLEY: Yeah. He would definitely do that for almost everybody, making sure everybody’s involved in the process, to have some real experience with archaeological work, hands-on. That was the first time we brought the Smithsonian in. It was a lot of fun, and really rewarding. Then we also did the Winter Vault, but we decided we didn’t need to disturb any of the remains in that one. Then a couple of years later, we got a phone call from some anonymous person saying that, asking if we knew that the Wirt Vault had been broken into 25 years earlier. We didn’t. They said …
DEUTSCH: The work vault?
CROWLEY: Wirt. W-I-R-T. William Wirt. He was Attorney General of the United States from 19—1817-1829, I believe. He was long serving. He was an orator, statesman, ran for the presidency on the Anti-Masonic Party. Prosecutor in the Aaron Burr trial. A really big guy in his day. He’s got that huge monument just east of the chapel, the big square one …
DEUTSCH: You said 1918, but did you mean 1818?
CROWLEY: Yeah.
DEUTSCH: You got a call saying someone had broken into that …
CROWLEY: Yeah. And they said “Did you know that his skull had been stolen?” We didn’t know that either. They said “The guy who has it has passed away. His wife is getting rid of this macabre collection of things. Do you want it back?” That is when Bill Fecke was in the office. I happened to be there. I said “Will you tell them, Thursday? I’ll come get it Thursday.” Then he hung up the phone. And we didn’t hear back for a year. The next phone call we got was from City Councilman Jim Graham’s office saying he had the skull in his office. Did we want it back? And the same thing “Yes, we’ll come get it Thursday.” So I went over to Jim Graham’s office. He told me that the person that had entrusted it to him wanted us to prove it was William Wirt before he would give it back. I remember thinking “How do you prove that a skull belongs to an individual person? I don’t know.”
DEUTSCH: You’d have to get DNA from the rest of the body, right?
CROWLEY: That’s a very expensive process, though. It took about four months of negotiating with Jim Graham’s office to actually get it. He was getting bad press then, too. He blamed me for that. The last time I’d seen him, he called me his enemy, “because you’re putting all this bad press out about me.” I said “Jim, I’m trying to sell burial sites. The argument that I’ll try to keep your mother together is not a good burial sales tactic. I’m not putting the bad press out for you.” The skull was in this big old lunch-pail type box, which had the words, Honorable William Wirt on the cover, printed, stenciled on the box, and I thought, “Isn’t that proof that it’s him? It’s good enough for me.” He finally gave me the box, and I walked it down to the Smithsonian, and handed it off to the Smithsonian group. They did some forensic works and brought it out to the cemetery one afternoon, or one Saturday morning in October, I forget what year it was, offhand. We went down in the tomb; the bones were all over the floor. We had to take out all the bones and put them on tables out on the sidewalk and do this whole forensic workup of … “These bones belonged to a women in her 30s; these are a man’s leg in his 60s.” We were able to determine that this skull, for various reasons, does go with this set of bones, which is William Wirt. We put them all back together and put him back in his tomb. It was really fascinating.
DEUTSCH: Did you ever learn who had broken into the … was it an act of vandalism?
CROWLEY: Yeah. Several of the old burial vaults had been broken into. I remember meeting somebody in the cemetery just a couple of years ago, who … I asked him if he needed any help, and he said “No, no, I’m actually helping you out.” I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I was inside, organizing the bones in that burial vault over there.” “Please don’t do that any more. We have—the Smithsonian comes in because you don’t want to disturb a burial site for them. They only get involved if there’s science involved. If it’s too disturbed, it ruins the science for them, and they won’t help. We don’t want you moving anything. We don’t want you moving anything; we don’t want you in there at all.”
DEUTSCH: Amateurs, reorganizing bones.
CROWLEY: Yeah. The board feels that education is a big part of our mission. Having the Smithsonian come in and being up-front about “These are burial practices from 19th century America.”
DEUTSCH: Not to mention education about the people who are there. The cross-section of history that’s represented by the people who are there. How many burials were there last year, for example?
CROWLEY: It was about 20, last year. When I first came on the board, we did about 12 a year, and as the cemetery, as the city has regentrified and Capitol Hill has become a nicer place to live, the cemetery has received the benefits. Our dog-walking program has mushroomed, and the cemetery has become much more …
DEUTSCH: How many members in the dog walking? I should know this.
CROWLEY: I think right now we allow 700 dogs. So to do some algebra to get back to …
DEUTSCH: Seven hundred dogs, but it’s about 500 …
CROWLEY: Families. I was sort of the mayor of the dog-walk group for a long time. I remember at one point, early on, one of the board members said “Let’s put a limit on the number of dogs at 250.” I thought, “None of the board members here know anything but what’s going on at the cemetery. So yeah, I’ll agree to it. Who knows what the number is? Nobody here certainly knows, so this is a rule that has no effect. Yeah, I’ll vote for it.”
DEUTSCH: But it’s not … It hasn’t been …
CROWLEY: No. It’s probably way over that at the time, actually.
DEUTSCH: How do you see your future? Are you going to stay on the board?
CROWLEY: We voted in term limits several years ago. So in April of last year, I had to roll off the board.
DEUTSCH: You’re back to being just a volunteer.
CROWLEY: Right. I did the “Dead Man’s Run” last year, which was a 5 K run through the cemetery. Our grounds guy, Barry Hayman, actually came up with the idea and the name, Dead Man’s Run. He’s since forgotten that; he says it’s not his idea, but it was his idea.
DEUTSCH: Is Barry Hayman the manager?
CROWLEY: No, he’s just the groundskeeper. The manager was Ellen Davis. (Another story). Barry came up with the idea, my brother came up with the skeleton as the logo for it, a running skeleton, and my brother Bill had said, “Why don’t you put tennis shoes, running shoes on the skeleton”? So we did. We allowed people … my brother Bill had said, “Putting on a marathon, or a 5K run is a lot of work. Are you sure you want to get started into that?” Ignorance is a great thing. I went ahead and did it anyway. It turned out to be a lot of fun. Everybody loved it. It zigzags through the cemetery, up along the Anacostia River, and back into the cemetery. We had over five or six hundred runners for the first year.
DEUTSCH: It must have raised quite a bit of money too.
CROWLEY: Yeah. It netted about $24,000. Everybody had a lot of fun. My whole family flew in to help manage it. That was kind of fun. I knew the registration process; where the money is for the runners, so I wanted to make sure that was done carefully, so I put my sisters in charge of that. We had a lot of grounds things that had to be done early in the morning, so I put my brothers in charge of, “OK, put this tent over there, and put that table over there.” I took a Google maps picture of a tree, from a satellite, of a particular tree, that I’d had blown up and blown up so that I had an eight by eleven sheet of paper that had a tree on it. I gave it to my brother and said “This is the two-mile mark. Go put a sign by it.” He said “Where is the tree?” “It’s out there somewhere; go find it.”
DEUTSCH: And he did.
CROWLEY: Yeah.
DEUTSCH: Is that going to happen again this year?
CROWLEY: We’re planning on it. We’re starting to work on it right now.
DEUTSCH: Is it in the fall?
CROWLEY: Spring, so we’re running out of time to actually find sponsors and stuff.
DEUTSCH: Do you hope to end up some day in Congressional Cemetery?
CROWLEY: Yeah. I want to buy a site there, but I can’t decide where. I keep changing my mind about where the right place is. I’ve walked every inch of that place; I know the grounds like the back of my hand, and yet you still walk around it … for years, I would discover something new every week. Something new, either in the archives, or the grounds, or something. I’d walk around and say, “This is a nice spot. Maybe this is where I want to be.” My idea is, I want to put a bench in with my name, made out of sandstone, because I like … I don’t like granite; it’s too …
DEUTSCH: Sandstone is softer.
CROWLEY: Yeah. It has character to it. Lime and marble wear away. Granite is just too impersonal. It doesn’t care about us. I want a sandstone bench so that you can sit on, with a back on it. I want to put on something like “To thine own self be true.” So that in a hundred years, people will sit down and think, “I wonder who Crowley was.” My idea. I’ve been very, very involved with all the landscape plans. We’ve had several landscape plans done, and I’ve been intimately involved in all of them. It’s been a lot of fun working with world-renowned landscape architects. It’s kind of interesting. Some of them don’t know the grounds, so their plans don’t measure up. When you get the plan you think, “This isn’t going to work. There’s a monument there.” Or they suggest trees get planted underneath other trees.
Working with Lisa Delplace of Oehme van Sweden was a lot of fun because she knew the cemetery; she’d been a dog-walker. She actually came to the grounds. It was fun to work with somebody who actually knew the grounds. We went out to the Virginia Tech landscape architecture school one time. One of the kids took it on as a project. He built this really neat clay model, a physical model of the cemetery. His project was to do a tertiary-water-cleaning process for water runoff before it got to the river. It was a whole ornate thing, and he brought it to the board to show us. I remember looking at the big model, a four-foot-square thing, thinking “If you were a professional, I’d fire you immediately,” because the plan he came up with was not on the cemetery’s property; it was on someone else’s property. I thought, “How did you get that wrong? You’re designing a system for someone else’s property. If you’re a professional, you lost. You’d get an F for that project, if it was me.”
DEUTSCH: So you think you’ll stay on the Hill?
CROWLEY: Yeah. I probably will.
DEUTSCH: You’re retired, but you’re a consultant?
CROWLEY: Yeah. I retired. My job at FERC was to be an expert witness in energy litigation work; oil and gas pipelines, and some electric lines. In fact, I worked on the Enron investigation. I was in charge of the audiotapes. They’d get on the phone and make these deals between energy companies. Their word was the contract. There were a lot of things that were done that we suspected were illegal. I was put in charge of the 62,000 hours of audiotape; to listen to evidence of fraud. Of course, you can’t listen to 62,000 hours of tape. So me and another economist had to figure out how to sample the material. There were four different regional markets and there were six different types of products they were selling, thirty-six different traders. Some of the sound bites were four seconds; some were three hours. How do you sample that? We spent days talking about sampling technique and statistics. How could you talk about that for ten minutes and stay awake, let alone days? But at the end, I knew my name was going to be on testimony, so that was a real incentive to be interested in what’s the outcome, and withstand cross-examination.
I investigated some of the schemes in California for moving energy around that Enron did. They had names like Death Star and Fat Boy and Ricochet. The question was “What was the scheme? How did it work? Where did the energy go? What was the schedule to go? Where’d the money go? That was fascinating, working on that. There was one called Get Shorty, which was a … the Enron people named their routes by a lot of different things, a lot of current movies. That one was … they were selling … how does it work? It was essentially an insurance policy that you had to have to make sure the system stayed up, so if something went down, you had this emergency power source. The state was buying it at $250 a megawatt at the time. It was very expensive. Then, in the day-ahead market, Enron would go in and buy—sell the same service for $250, and then the next day sell it to somebody else for a penny, so they’d make $249.99 on the deal. The question was, did they ever have the resources to back it up? At first, we thought they didn’t. I finally figured out that they did have the resources. I remember talking to a guy in California about something in the state, and we had this three-hour conversation about this mechanism, and I finally convinced him that the state was not actually in any danger. He was like “Oh, really. Yeah, that’s true.” I remember thinking “Am I the only one that’s figured this out? That’s scary. There’s a lot of brilliant people who are involved in all this. How did I figure this out and nobody else has”?
DEUTSCH: That sounds pretty intense.
CROWLEY: It was real intense, and very interesting. My very last day at work at the Commission, I was on the witness stand, being cross-examined by Enron’s attorneys. It’s fun to be an expert witness. In other types of courts, you’re just called in and they ask questions, you answer it. But in my kind of work, it’s a long process. You’ve done all the analysis, you’ve crunched numbers, you’ve written testimony ahead of time, so everybody gets to see it. When you take the witness stand, there’s somebody paid a lot of money to take your work and make you look stupid. I know people who would do it for a lot less. It’s interesting as an expert witness, a professional, to watch another professional try to walk you down a path you don’t want to go on, because he’s going to make you look bad at some point. Sometimes you can tell where he’s going. You have to answer honestly. It’s fun to watch another professional try to take you to where you’re going to screw up.
I worked on a tax issue one time. I spent four months studying the tax code in this real complicated income tax issue for mass limited partnerships. I studied it and studied it, and I wrote 150 pages of testimony, and I got on the witness stand. They spent an hour cross-examining me on something else, on capitalized overheads, which I didn’t know much about. I was really sweating out that testimony, and then they never asked me about the taxes! I got off the witness stand; as I walked past the lawyer, I said “Why didn’t you ask me about the taxes”? He said, “Because you would have kicked my butt all over this courtroom.” Which I took as high praise. My work there was very interesting. A lot of economic modeling, and number crunching. You’d get these spreadsheets that are 50 or a hundred pages long, and they’re all interconnected, so you make a change on page 40, it rolls up to page one, what the impact is. The organic-ness of working with modeling spreadsheets was a lot of fun.
DEUTSCH: So now you’re a consultant? In energy?
CROWLEY: Right. Because of that tax issue, was going to the federal courts, and everybody was certain the courts would overrule it, because they’d already ruled it a phantom tax, which I still believe. They’re collecting an income tax from you. Every time you put gas in your car, you’re paying an income tax to the oil pipeline companies, and it’s a tax they don’t owe and they don’t pay. No one pays it. But the commission, for some reason, has ruled that someone, somewhere does, which goes against all cost-accounting methodology and philosophy. I was trying to fight it. I read the tax code. I have the whole tax code at home. I studied and studied and studied it. I still think it’s a huge rip-off. It’s billions of dollars collected from consumers every year. We all thought they were going to overrule it. I was disappointed with not getting a promotion at work, so I decided I’m going to quit and open up my own consulting shop, and when the courts overrule this issue, I’m one of the few people who actually understands how it works. I’ve looked at the return, the income-tax returns of the 200,000 owners of this one company. I know this perfectly.
DEUTSCH: You obviously have a great mind for detail.
CROWLEY: Yeah. I’ll be rich in no time. Everybody will have to come to me. The courts didn’t overrule it. They decided that they’d defer to the commission.
DEUTSCH: What kind of things do you consult on now?
CROWLEY: Mostly depreciation rates on oil and gas pipelines. Which is what I did when I first started at the commission. They put me in what they called the Depreciation Branch, and I thought, “There’s got to be some mistake. I came here to fix the world or something, not to do depreciation. There’s something wrong here.”
DEUTSCH: So you’re fixing the world in other ways.
CROWLEY: Yeah. One of the first cases I got; we started doing oil pipeline rates, and they were not very regulated at all. Me and another colleague started sending letters to oil companies saying, “Where do you get your oil from? How many customers do you have? Where does it go to? What does it cost?” We were trying to understand the industry. They didn’t like it at all. I remember answering my phone one day and this guy was swearing at me. Just cursing loudly, yelling at me. He calmed down long enough for me to say “Who are you?” It was the Comptroller of Conoco Oil. I was a 20-year-old kid, and I’m thinking “This is a cool job. I’ve got somebody in Texas who just went berserk over a questionnaire I sent them.” It ended up, the work mostly being long-term forecasting oil and gas reserves. I got to use my economics. I got to go to the North Slope of Alaska, stay on an island in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. Certainly a lot of interesting stuff. Most people’s job have things that come up.
DEUTSCH: Yeah. That sounds like fun. Thank you, Patrick.
CROWLEY: Sure.
END OF INTERVIEW