Marking Fred Gwynne’s Unmarked Grave with Flowers


All photos of Sandy Mount United Methodist Church provided by Sharon Pajka.

by Sharon Pajka

Fred Gwynne was an American actor who passed just shy of his 67th birthday in 1993. If I played a clip, I’m pretty sure that you would recognize his distinctive bass-baritone voice. Most of us know him as lovable Herman Munster or even his later role as the endearing and knowledgeable neighbor in Pet Sematary. When I announced where I was going, my brother immediately dropped lines from My Cousin Vinny.

It’s probably important to note right here that I don’t get googlie-eyed over celebrity. In fact, when I hear the term “Hollywood Actor,” I usually tune out. I’m not necessarily making it a goal to visit actors’ resting places, but there are a few actors who mean something to me. Mr. Gwynne is certainly one of them. When I learned that Gwynne was buried in an unmarked grave in Finksburg, Maryland, I figured I would take a journey to his graveside alone.

Sandy MountGwynne is buried at Sandy Mount United Methodist Church cemetery, which lies behind the church. Sandy Mount Church has a long history (historic listing). A deed from September 28, 1827 shows that the land was conveyed from Allen Baker to five trustees, under the condition that they erect a house of worship. In 1855, there was a controversy about whether to allow enslaved Africans to worship with their “masters.” The church divided and part of the congregation moved to another location and began Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1943, they were reunited.

In 1867, three stonemasons by the names of Ward, Bush, and Shipley built Sandy Grove’s stone sanctuary. A legend says that because the three men had gone out drinking, the front walls appear slightly irregular. It would be fascinating to find more information about the cemetery itself, but what I have discovered has been quite limited. While the cemetery is not very large, there are some old gravestones.

Why Gwynne’s remains rest in an unmarked grave is not clear. As far as I can tell, at the end of his life, Gwynne wanted to be Fred Gwynne the man and not Fred Gwynne the actor. In an article in Harvard’s The Crimson (2001), his daughter Madyn Gwynne said, “He was a far more complex character than the one he played on The Munsters.” Of course he was! Gwynne studied portrait-painting before enlisting in the Navy in World War II. He served as a radio operator in a submarine-chasing vessel. Afterward, he attended the New York Phoenix School of Design and Harvard University. I was excited to learn that he was also a children’s author. His books include It’s Easy to See Why, A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, The King Who Rained, Best In Show, Pondlarker, The Battle of the Frogs and Mice, and A Little Pigeon Toad.

While he may have tried to distance himself from roles that rhymed with his Herman Munster character, Gwynne noted in a 1982 interview that “I might as well tell you the truth, I love old Herman Munster. Much as I try to, I can’t stop liking that fellow.”

Soon before Gwynne passed, he and his wife bought land in Taneytown, Maryland, northeast of Baltimore. During that time, he worked as a voice-over artist in commercials. Within a year, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When he passed away, his funeral was private.

Thanks to, which pointed me in the direction of Tod Benoit’s Where Are they Buried?, I found a picture of Gwynne’s grave with the description “approximate yet accurate location of Fred Gwynne’s final resting place at Sandymount [sic] Methodist.”

“Walk into the cemetery behind the church and near the back is a distinctive Shannon stone. About twenty feet in front and to the left of the Shannon stone, Fred is buried in a grave that, but for the grass covering it, has no marking of any kind.” (Where Are they Buried? Tod Benoit, p. 179)

UnmarkedGraveWhen I researched the journey, I did not expect many people would want to visit a grave that did not even have a marker. Of course, my friends are not most people. On a somewhat chilly March afternoon, a fellow blogger and I took a road trip from Washington, D.C. to Finksburg. We’d only met in person a month prior. Although her home was more than 4,000 miles away, in Finland, my new friend just happened to be in the States for an internship. Because she had only seen a small part of the U.S., I suggested taking the journey together, so that she could also see a bit of the countryside.

We headed out on Thursday, which was a pretty beautiful day to be in a cemetery. Since we could not find a local florist, we picked up flowers at a grocery. GPS made it fairly simple to find the cemetery, which included obelisks and other traditional turn-of-the-century markers. On the side of the church stood numerous old graves that could use a bit of restoration. The Rush family gravestone stood near the parking lot. I thought it was a stunning example of craftsmanship.

Gwynne’s plot is located in the back of the cemetery, in a section that appears much more modern. Most of the cemeteries that I have visited are quite wooded. At Sandy Mount, one can stand near Gwynne’s resting place and see for what seems like miles. In the distance, there is even a windmill. Not a bad place to spend forever, if you ask me.

Of course, neither of us ever knew Fred-Gwynne-the-man, so we could only discuss the characters he played. Naturally, the character of Herman Munster stuck with us.

FredGwynneGraveI think it’s easy to start comparing The Addams Family and The Munsters. Both series aired from 1964-1966. When Jade and I were standing graveside, she stated that the family of The Munsters was a bit dysfunctional. I wasn’t quite sure why I felt the urge to defend these characters.

I’m slowly processing; trying to grasp each reflection has been like grabbing a cloud. I’ve always been much more connected to the Munsters than to the Addams Family. This could be because The Munsters aired as reruns right after school, so I grew up watching the old episodes. Also, I think what connected me to the Munster family was their working-class roots. The Addams Family appeared to be independently wealthy, while Herman Munster had to go off to work at the funeral home with his enormous lunchbox. He even started out as the “nail boy,” working his way up through the business.

In many ways, the Munster characters come across as a typical American family. Mr. Munster is (at least stereotypically) the all-American Dad, who is a bit childlike but who always means well. Viewers learn that he used to be in the army and fought in WWII.

So many of the episodes followed the formula of fitting in: immigrants coming to America to live the American dream in an old house that they thought was just right (albeit dusty and dilapidated, just like our own homes). I guess I connect because, in many ways, the Munsters’ story is my story. My family immigrated and always thought they blended in, even when their Polish roots stuck out. Just like the Munster family, they didn’t mind. They loved being themselves. They loved being here.

While I must respect Mr. Gwynne and his family’s wish to keep his resting place quiet, visiting a grave is a way to pay our respect, a way to say “Thank You!” The trip was a way to connect with someone who grew up on the other side of the world, over one actor who made a difference in both of our lives.

Mr. Gwynne, as the character of Mr. Munster, taught me that “It doesn’t matter what you look like. What matters is the size of your heart and the strength of your character.” (The Munsters, “Eddie’s Nickname,” Season 1, episode 19, aired January 28, 1965.)


FredGwynneFlowers1Sharon Pajka is a professor of English. For fun, she studied to become a Master Tour Guide and gives tours in American Sign Language at her favorite garden cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Her blog Goth Gardening uses gardening as a metaphor for living as she shares how some plants & flowers, creepy things, and the dead brought her back to life.


Death's Garden001About the Death’s Garden project:

For the next year, I’m planning to put a cemetery essay up every Friday. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation — or if you got married in one. The submissions guidelines are here.

About Loren Rhoads

I'm co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. Angelus Rose, the final book, came out in February 2020. I am the editor of Tales for the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief. I'm also author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel--and a space opera trilogy.
This entry was posted in Cemetery essay, Death's Garden Revisited, Famous person's grave and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Marking Fred Gwynne’s Unmarked Grave with Flowers

  1. Wonderful post! The Munsters were my favorite too as I watched it with my children. I did not know very much about Fred Gwynne so thanks for the information. Strange that he wanted an unmarked grave. The cemetery is rather unusual with its flatness and open space. Nice that you left flowers!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, I live less than 5 miles from his final resting place and had no idea he was buried there. We both lived in the same town for the last few years of his life; I wish I could have shaken his hand… although he probably didn’t want the attention.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Tim Chester says:

      28 years ago 1993 Fred Gwynne passed, a good actor and good job portaying Herman Munster.Actors can become type cast but they made it on the map and their character was liked, Not a regular 9 to 5 pm job,but well known with the masses through reruns.Everyday is a gift from God also every heart beat and every breath.Remember JOHN chapter 3 verses 16 and 17 GOD bless you.


  3. Trustee says:

    As a trustee for the Sandymount Cemetery I must advise everyone that Fred Gywnne is in an unmarked grave for a reason. It was a decision of the family’s. Even though many people have asked where the grave is located; the trustees are not at liberty to disclose the exact location. The cemetery is open to family members of the deceased but not celebrity seekers. Respect the dead, may they rest in peace, and respect the privacy of their family’s. Small note, Sharon Pajka was off by a country mile.


    • Loren Rhoads says:

      Thanks for your note. It’s a shame the family chose not to memorialize Mr. Gwynne. This essay is one of the more popular ones I’ve published. Clearly, he still has a lot of fans. One can’t blame them for wanting to pay their respects.


      • Kent says:

        And you can’t blame the family, who actually knew and loved Mr. Gwynne, for honoring his wishes to have an unmarked grave.


      • Loren Rhoads says:

        No one seems to be blaming the family. It’s just a shame that there is no place where his admirers can pay their respects. He’s clearly still beloved, nearly 20 years after his death.


    • P k Moore says:

      Sandy Mount….two a trustee you should know this.


  4. Joseph Gadow says:

    I go by there all the time and glad he retired in our Great State of Md. Our family grew up watching the Munsters and Addams Families every week,( Not to mention the years of re-runs.) Mom and Dad are of the Generation that watched Car 54…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jason Sutton says:

    I am sitting thinking about Mr. Fred Gwynne and how he touched so many lives, directly and indirectly. I like so many others loved The Munsters. I also love and respect the families wishes to leave his grave as unmarked. Yes, many of us would like to go and pay our respects and say thank you to such a profound man but as it was stated earlier he wanted to leave this world as Fred Gwynne the Man, not the actor. Thank you to everyone who has posted something regarding this great human being and most importantly make every moment count in your life, so when all is said and down you can leave Rest Assured that your Mark on the World truly mattered!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mike says:

    Fred Gwynn was one of the greatest character actors of his generation and I spoke to people in his hometown who remembered him fondly as he would come into town to buy seed, he owned a farm, or to shop for groceries and people who say Hi Fred or Hi Herman in a joking way and he always responded in a respectful manner knowing they were not only friends but fans too. Fred also was a writer of children’s books and a gifted painter as he added on a studio onto his home located on Stone Road in Maryland which is still there. Mr. Gwynn was also a highly intelligent man who graduated from Harvard and though he starred in movies and Car 54 he will always be remembered fondly as Herman Munster, I mean how can you not like that fellow. RIP Fred, you gave us many fond memories and for that we thank you………God Bless.


  7. I surely appreciate what I read about Fred Qwynne. He was multi-talented. One talent, acting, I especially respect. One thing, he was excellent on the Munsters. He, I think, was the best actor on that. May he rest in peace. William


  8. Wayne Dent says:

    I visited the house that he and his wife purchased in Taneytown and in which he died. It was indeed a well kept but simple farm house especially for someone as famous as Mr. Gwynne was. A girl was in the local hardware store and was mumbling to herself about what she was looking for. From behind her she heard a deep familiar voice say second row from the bottom in the middle. She turned to see Mr. Gwynne. He was just a nice man that wanted to live a private life. Seems a reasonable desire from a helpful friendly neighbor. I love your writing. Thanks!


  9. Pez says:

    Love you Fred. Love you Herman. Rip


  10. Doug says:

    Most of my relatives are buried in Woodlawn Cematery in Ny. Many famous people there
    Tony Randal and I met while I was working at an airport. He was stuck in a snow storm and his limo never made it. He waited for me to get off and I drove him to his Central Park apartment. I see he was buried in a creepy little place in upstate Ny. I guess he was a happy New Yorker that didn’t want much for himself


  11. Matt says:

    Awesome read. Thank you for sharing!!


  12. Lisa Stultz says:

    Thank you for the article…One of my favorite shows also.


  13. Pingback: Resting Places of Horror Film Icons, Part One | Cemetery Travel: Your Take-along Guide to Graves & Graveyards Around the World

  14. Tiffiny says:

    What an awesome article! This was heartwarming. Thank you for writing this and reminding me just how much I loved this show and all the characters; but Herman Munster brought out the best in me. He always filled me with JOY!! No other character in my childhood made me feel as happy as Mr Gwynne- “Herman Munster”. ~
    I must say this article has given honor where honor is due. I Loved this!!


  15. Richard says:

    If it’s in marked how do you know he’s buried there?


  16. Christopher Taft says:

    i knew fred at JWT. he was an art director and a most intresting man. i was a traffic man i am aimost 81 today.i hope his final spot remains his and the family and that is it!


  17. Jeffrey Judd says:

    Thank you for visiting Fred Gwynn’s gravesite. I think its a shame that there’s no tombstone. Shamebon his family. It would be nice if we could take up a collection to put one there if we’re allowed. Please let me know. My email is My cell phone no. Is 724 713 0858. Sincerely, Jeff Judd P.O. Box 139 Callery, Pa. 16024


  18. Sum Yung Gai says:

    I get why Mr. Gwynne is famous for the Munsters. He was terrific in the role. However, I remember him even more for Judge Chamberlain Haller in My Cousin Vinny. The actor had mastered his craft to such a degree that he didn’t hardly need to say a word as the Judge. His facial expressions said it all. He ended up getting a whole new generation (mine) of fans as a result of this (justifiably) highly popular movie, and it remains popular today. In college, a bunch of us young twenty-somethings were quoting lines from the movie (“what’s a yoot?”, “are you mocking me with that outfit?”, and such).

    As for why there’s no tombstone…for all we know, that may well have been his wish, so I see no reason to criticize the family for not putting one there. He may have died relatively young, but man, has he left an impact. The man was multi-talented and apparently, as the saying goes, a “cool ol’ guy” to boot.


  19. Tom Calzada says:

    Thanks for this, it is very interesting with just a touch of sadness. Mr. Gwynne, thank you sir for your contribution to my existence…to this day I am still laughing & enjoying your genius!


  20. Lahoma Johnson says:

    The Munsters was one of my favorite shows and Fred Gwynne was very fun to watch His character was so different I’m jus surprised that He was buried in An Unmarked grave and even though his family wanted to keep his burial quiet why not a tomb stone to mark his grave? I saw a photo of Mr. Gwynne here in Georgetown S.C. at FriendField Plantation just 5 minutes from where I live…R.I.P. Herman The Munster


  21. James Karukas says:

    I’m watching a broadcast of Fred’s performance in the still funny “Munster, Go Home”. He really shines in this story, among the cast of great comedic character actors. For a MD native now settled in the hills of Los Angeles, it is gratifying to know he enjoyed his later anonymity living the rural life in Taneytown.


  22. mike says:

    I’m in Melbourne Australia, 62 yrs old and grew up with the Munsters, loved Mr Gwynnes Herman character, its on our tv at 5pm everyday and myself and stepdaughter rush home to never miss an episode…..many thanks RIP Fred.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Elizabeth M. says:

    Thanks for this article. My husband and I are enjoying Fred in his role in “Pet Sematery”. Talented guy, he carried that movie.


  24. Pingback: Fun Fact: What Famous Actor Is Buried in an Unmarked Grave in Carroll County? – Conduit Street

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