By Anne McKee
The Meridian Star
Upon a lovely hillside, the Queen of the Gypsies of North America waits. She is Kelly Mitchell and the wait began February 1915. She waits for her people, the Romany gypsies.
As a loving and devoted mother-figure, Queen Kelly keeps a careful watch, minute-by-minute, day-by-day, year-by-year, decade-by-decade … she never tires as she watches for her loved ones. Several have joined her since that fateful day in 1915. Her King, Emil, joined her in 1942, and since that time several others have come as well. They are all together now buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, but still, she watches and waits.
The story of the death and burial of Queen Kelly Mitchell is a haunting one. So many people are intrigued. Even a bestseller book was written loosely based on the Queen and her tragic death. Author Julie Cantrell of Oxford, Miss., penned an amazing story of a young girl, Millie, who also was beguiled by the Queen’s life and the gypsy lifestyle. The book, "Into the Free", which was published in 2012, reigned as a New York Times bestseller and continues to be a favorite of Mississippians.
As Queen Kelly waits, she is not disappointed. Each week the visitors arrive. They come with a yearning clearly marked across their countenances. I have witnessed the awe with which the visitors approach her gravesite. Nearly all have trinkets or gifts to place upon her marker. The gifts are a petition for their Queen to come to them in their dreams – to answer problems or give counsel.
The reverence shown by Romany visitors is unlike most people who walk the cemetery. It’s touching to see that after nearly 100 years, the Queen’s memory remains strong and constant in the minds and hopes of her people.
And the Queen continues to wait …
For many, her story brings forth a feeling of a lost world – a universe beyond the stars. It seems that one can still feel the ardent emotion displayed by her King on the day of her death, as he cried, “Who can save my Queen? I will pay $10,000 to a doctor who can save her!”
But it was not to be … the Queen died of childbirth. Some think it was her 13th or 14th child. She seemed a healthy, and strong woman, even at 48 years of age. She and her people were camped near Coatopa, Ala. King Emil sought a nearby funeral home, with refrigeration and as well a proper burial place for his Queen. He chose Meridian. It would take two weeks for the estimated 20,000 Romany Gypsies to arrive for the service.
The horse-drawn hearse traveled west on 7th Street, followed by carriages filled with her female family and tribe members. Although it was a cold February day, according to the Romany tradition, all of the men were on foot and bare-headed, as they followed the hearse that traveled slowly toward Rose Hill Cemetery.
Prominently displayed near Rose Hill Cemetery’s front gate:
"Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die." — Mary Elizabeth Frye
But you see she is there — the Queen continues to wait …
Anne B. McKee is a writer and storyteller. Visit her website: www.annemckee.net