May 25

This Day in History

Automotive

May 25, 1994:

Pennsylvania man buried with his beloved Corvette

On this day in 1994, the ashes of 71-year-old George Swanson are buried (according to Swanson's request) in the driver's seat of his 1984 white Corvette in Hempfield County, Pennsylvania.

Swanson, a beer distributor and former U.S. Army sergeant during World War II, died the previous March 31 at the age of 71. He had reportedly been planning his automobile burial for some time, buying 12 burial plots at Brush Creek Cemetery, located 25 miles east of Pittsburgh, in order to ensure that his beloved Corvette would fit in his grave with him. After his death, however, the cemetery balked, amid concerns of vandalism and worries that other clients would be offended by the outlandish nature of the burial. They finally relented after weeks of negotiations, but insisted that the burial be private, and that the car be drained of fluids to protect the environment. "George wanted to go out in style, and, indeed, now he will," commented Swanson's lawyer in a report from The Associated Press. "We agree that this is rather elaborate, but really it's no different than being buried in a diamond-studded or gold coffin."

According to the AP, Swanson's widow, Caroline, transported her husband's ashes to the cemetery on the seat of her own white 1993 Corvette. The ashes were then placed on the driver's seat of his 10-year-old car, which had only 27,000 miles on the odometer. Inside the car, mourners also placed a lap quilt made by a group of women from Swanson's church, a love note from his wife and an Engelbert Humperdinck tape in the cassette deck, with the song "Release Me" cued up and ready to play. The license plate read "HI-PAL," which was Swanson's go-to greeting when he didn't remember a name. As 50 mourners looked on, a crane lowered the Corvette into a 7-by-7-by-16-foot hole.   

"George always said he lived a fabulous life, and he went out in a fabulous style," Caroline Swanson said later. "You have a lot of people saying they want to take it with them. He took it with him."

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