When internationally revered comics writer Harvey Pekar died in July 2010, he left behind plenty of unfinished projects — among them, no will and no burial plot. So friends and admirers promptly threw a benefit show at the Beachland Ballroom to help put the lovable grump to rest. What they didn’t get around to was a proper marker for his grave.
Enter musician, sculptor, and Beachland bartender Justin Coulter, who took on the task of designing a statue of Pekar to mark his resting place at Lake View Cemetery. The design consists of an image of Pekar emerging from an oversized comics panel, complete with a slate back — the better for visitors to personalize it as they please.
But as the concept unfolded, cemetery officials noted that scrawling upon grave markers has been frowned upon at Lake View for a few hundred years or so. And so they nixed the plan.
That’s when Pekar’s widow, Joyce Brabner, approached the Cleveland Heights University Heights Public Library, where Pekar’s carcass had been interred for much of his life.
“We saw him every day for years and years,” says library director Nancy Levin. “And suddenly he’s not here. When he died, the outpouring from everywhere was overwhelming. He was one of us, and we felt he should be honored.”
And so he will: Coulter’s five-foot Pekar memorial will sit just outside the library store, which is already named in his honor. The design will be cast in bronze by sculptor Justin Coulter at Mike Moritz's foundry, just as soon as they find the money for it.
As part of the Harvey hoopla, the library will hold a public celebration of Pekar — the first since his passing — at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 25.
“I hope this becomes a memorial about creativity and inspiring people to make their own stuff: a magnet, a place to read and respect comics as literature,” says Brabner. — Anastasia Pantsios