Tag Archives: shrines

Death’s Mementos

Every day I am moved by roadside memorials to people who weren’t ready to die. People who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re a constant reminder of how fragile we are—bits of bone wrapped in a flimsy shroud of a ridiculously unsuitable hide. We’re anything but fierce when up against poison, bullet, disease, or 3,000 pounds of steel, glass and chrome.

These two women touch my life almost every day. I did not know them but their memories live on. We should respect that.

Rose Johnson was a Bisbee artist who was enchanted by the island of Bali and traveled there in 2009. She died in a hospital in Denpasar on May 31, 2009 at age 48 from acute alcohol poisoning after consuming arak, a local alcoholic drink, which had been laced with the industrial solvent methanol. Twenty other people died a slow, painful death along with her that week. She does not have a traditional roadside shrine, but as a noted painter and muralist she has become a legend in Bisbee.

Mural by Rose Johnson along the Jonquil Motel in Bisbee

Peace Wall by Rose Johnson, Tombstone Canyon, Bisbee


Stacia Barrett was a young rodeo rider. She died on March 30, 2005, one day before her 16th birthday. I can’t find an obituary for her, which is odd, but homemade roadside shrines are usually for victims of automobile accidents. This shrine, on a rural road in Hereford, Arizona, is very emotional, and always makes me think about her family, her friends, and her horse, and how very much they must miss her.

Stacia's shrine, Hereford, AZ

Stacia's short life

Picture of Stacia riding her horse "Dollar" at a rodeo in Benson, AZ. Photo credit: http://iconwesternimages.com/


In some states it’s illegal to construct roadside shrines, and other states want to abolish them. They say the shrines are a distraction to drivers, and the crosses which many of them display offend some people. Bullshit. Cellphones, texting, superloud music, fighting with your kids in the back seat, sleeping at the wheel, drunks and idiots are distractions. Building shrines to our dead is what humans do and have always done. The shrines become part of the scenery and should be honored.

The Dead of Route 92

You’d think the worst auto accidents would be on winding mountain roads where there’s barely enough room for two cars to get by each other, but the deaths mostly occur on the long straight state roads. The speed limits are already pretty high here because it takes so long to get where you’re going, but it’s never fast enough for people who want to fly.

On these long straight roads, the visibility is pretty good and there are plenty of places to pass. So nobody really knows why there are so many deaths, but there are, and there are shrines all over the place. I used to be a speeder but I’m not anymore.

Someone told me this well-kept shrine is for a group of young girls who died before I moved here, but it's easy to see that someones still misses them dearly.

This girl was on the back of a motorcycle.

This young man was going too fast around the curve near the Lavender Pit. He was not the first to die on this curve.

This shrine is near the post office on 92. Mother/daughter? Two sisters? I don't know.

Kevin was a friend to all and is missed very much by his family and the community. His accident happened at mile marker 31, Rt. 92, he died a few days later in a Tucson hospital.

Shrine to unknown person

Shrine to unknown person on Rt. 92 near Hereford...a family is missing their mom.

Shrine to person unknown to me