Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Stone Man Burns

February 19, 1947

Harry L. Roberts, 53, died today in a fire that began when a cigarette fell into his bedclothes. The one-time Forest Lawn advertising manager and Tournament of Roses publicist had spent the past four years struggling with a mysterious illness that gradually paralyzed his limbs, and had most recently been laboriously typing a memoir of his sickness in hopes of discovering its cause.

Mr. and Mrs. Paul Murray, in-home aids to Roberts since his wife died two years ago, noticed smoke pouring from the den at 1020 Linda Vista Ave. and called the fire department, but Roberts was already unconscious and could not be revived.

Also destroyed in the fire was his hard-wrought manuscript, which was completed earlier this week.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Many men dreamed of Greta Garbo, but Edgar H. Donne of Dorr, Mich., did something about it—if only in death. The farmer, who lived in a one-room cabin amid 180 acres dotted by oil wells, wrote to the actress constantly but never heard back, a conspiracy he blamed on the Dorr and Hollywood postmasters, whom he claimed were Freemasons.

The people in the little town of Dorr knew little about the reclusive Donne, who reputedly came from a wealthy English family. Petroleum companies wanted to drill for more oil but he rebuffed their offers, saying that more wells would kill his trees.

On his rare appearances in town, Donne quoted extensively from the Old Testament, but had an aversion to the New Testament and the Masonic Order.

He frequently disappeared during the winter, sometimes referring vaguely to horse races in the South, and in 1938 withdrew $1,800 from a Grand Rapids bank for a mysterious trip in which he spent several months in Hollywood.

After he died in October 1946, residents explored his one-room cabin, which was surrounded by concrete and armor plate several feet high that he said: “kept off drafts.” And there were four chimneys because every time he moved the stove he built a new one, neighbors said.

Inside was an extensive collection of rare beer steins, straight-edge razors and pressed glass. He slept on a heavy oak table padded with layers of burlap.

Donne’s will left his entire fortune to Garbo, specifying: “If Greta Garbo becomes my wife, then it goes to Greta Lovisa Donne.” Donne’s estate, valued at $20,000 ($189,283.72 USD 2005), included his land, $700 in war bonds, $180 in postal savings bonds and cash.