Once a year, on May 15, a dozen red roses appear on the grave of Eugene Ormandy in the churchyard of Old Pine Street Presbyterian.
The roses are no mystery, but the question of why the remains of the Philadelphia Orchestra's fourth music director, a Jew, reside in the cemetery of a Presbyterian church - the answer is not so clear.
What happened was this: When Ormandy was dying, his physician was Edward Viner, who was friends with Bill Pindar, pastor of the church. Pindar and Mrs. Ormandy grew to be friends.
When the subject of funeral arrangements came up, Mrs. Ormandy "didn't want the whole dog and pony show the orchestra wanted to put on," says Old Pine member Elizabeth Ostrander. And so she decided she would like to have him cremated and his remains placed at Old Pine, whose yard was also the final destination for one signer of the Declaration of Independence, a ringer of the Liberty Bell, 50 Revolutionary War soldiers and others.
"She left a bequest so that one dozen red roses every year could be placed on the gravestone on May 15th, their wedding anniversary," said Ostrander. Margaret (Gretel) Ormandy died in 1998, and her remains were placed alongside his.
This year, 25 years since Ormandy's death, the Friends of Old Pine have organized a musical memorial for the conductor, who led the ensemble from 1938 until 1980. Four musicians hired by him will tell Ormandy stories in a discussion led by retired Inquirer music critic Daniel Webster. A few Ormandy recordings will be played. Red roses will appear.
The event is May 15 at 2 p.m. at Old Pine, 4th and Pine Streets. It's free, but reservations are suggested: 215-925-8060.
"It's totally unscripted," said Ostrander. "I don’t know what these people are going to say. But it promises to be a fun afternoon."