Marion Barry would have turned 80 years old on Sunday, but the late mayor-for-life won’t be getting a headstone for a birthday present. Sixteen months after Barry’s death, his plot at Congressional Cemetery is still marked only by a small placard. Now Barry’s family says the wait may soon be over, but at least one person who was close to him is starting to get restless.
At a Barry memorial event last November, Barry’s separated wife-turned-widow Cora Masters Barry promised a “spectacular” headstone by Barry’s birthday, March 6. When LL visited the cemetery on Monday, though, the grave was still marked by a “temporary” marker that has turned out to not be so temporary.
The sign’s days may be numbered. Masters Barry spokesperson Raymone Bain says a design firm has made plans for the eventual headstone, which currently includes a relief of Barry’s face and a quote from Maya Angelou.
“A special man like Marion deserves a special memorial,” Bain says.
Whoever eventually pays for the headstone won’t get much help from Barry’s will. The former Ward 8 councilmember left behind a hefty tax bill and few assets for his benefactors.
Sandy Bellamy, Barry’s longtime girlfriend, apparently thinks nearly a year and a half without a headstone is too long. In a flurry of tweets Monday, Bellamy blasted unnamed people for leaving Barry “in a pile of dirt.
“I’ve been quiet long enough,” Bellamy wrote. “Get the man a headstone NOW!”
Bellamy later deleted the tweets. When LL asked about it, Bellamy distanced herself from them and wrote back that Barry will get a headstone “eventually.”
“It’s pretty insignificant,” Bain says of Bellamy’s tweets.
While the wait for Barry’s headstone has been a headache for Barry’s associates, his burial has been a boon for Congressional Cemetery itself. In August, Washingtonian reported that Barry’s decision to choose the cemetery for his final rest had persuaded as many as 20 other people to buy their own plots.
This isn’t the only spat over Barry’s legacy. Masters Barry is still suing Barry’s kidney donor over a foundation the donor created using his name.
Photo by Will Sommer