A short ceremony, with Mayor William E. Hann, Jr. presiding, capped three years of effort by the Civic Improvement Advisory Committee (CIAC) and other city groups. The occasion was the dedication last weekend of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Triangle at Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike in Rockville.
The Rev. William Silk, of St. Mary's Church (where Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda are buried), gave the invocation, asking those present to give thanks for Fitzgerald's talent, calling it "a priceless gift from God."
The mayor said that Fitzgerald represented a "special place in the overall history of the city" and mentioned that this dedication was third in a series of F. Scott Fitzgerald projects that the city has undertaken in recent years.
But the history he spoke of also includes the fact that Fitzgerald was denied burial in St. Mary's upon his death in 1940. The Catholic church decreed that Fitzgerald was not a practicing Catholic and could not be buried alongside his relatives in the church cemetery. Instead, he was buried in the municipal cemetery about two miles away, and upon her death in 1948, Zelda was buried beside him.
Back in 1975, Jennie Forehand, a member of the CIAC, received a phone call from a concerned resident about the Fitzgerald graveside. The grave had, in recent years, been neglected, and the last line in the inscription was fading. Forehand said she investigated, and was shocked at the condition. "I even took some cleanser there myself and scrubbed the tomb-stone," she said.
Around the same time, the Rockville Women's Club was looking for a Bicentennial project, and sprucing up the gravesite seemed appropriate. During that same year, the club also undertook a project to have the Fitzgeralds reburied in St. Mary's as the author had wished. The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington gave permission, as did Fitzgerald's daughter, and on Nov. 7, 1975, the couple was reburied in an area where five other stones bear the Fitzgerald name.
The triangle itself was known for many years as the Dodge Triangle, after a car dealership that had occupied the spot. In conjunction with their Bicentennial project, the Women's Club of Rockville planted trees, shrubs and flowers and began their efforts to have the triangle renamed for Fitzgerald.
On Saturday their efforts were realized as the mayor and members of CIAC unveiled a marble stone in the center of the triangle which reads: The City of Rockville Dedicates Fitzgerald Triangle To The Memory of F. Scott Fitzgerald, American Author 1896-1940.
It has been said that Fitzgerald died thinking he was a failure. He was no longer the celebrity he had been in the 1920s. For 35 years his grave went largely unnoticed. But on Saturday in Rockville, a monument was unveiled and a reading from perhaps his greatest work, "The Great Gatsby," concluded the program. The inscription on his grave reads: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."