Obituaries

Gheens Mausoleum Features Likeness of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper – Jefferson County

Charles Edwin Gheens, July 4, 1878 – November 11, 1961.  Mary Jo Gheens, wife of Charles Edwin Gheens and Richard H. Hill, October 19, 1882 – June 4, 1982.  Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky.

One of the treasures of Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville is the Gheens Mausoleum.  It was built for candy maker Charles Edwin and wife Mary Jo Gheens.  Charles Gheens was the kind of employer everyone would love.  Before the 1937 Louisville flood he moved his equipment to higher floors and allowed displaced families to live in the factory.  He wrote checks on his personal account to keep paying his staff until the flood waters receded and life became normal again.

Bradas & Gheens, Louisville candy firm is believed to be the oldest continuously operated candy factory in the United States.  There were 350 employees at Gheens death.  The company was founded by Peter Bradas in 1833 and was taken over by his son, the late James Bradas, in 1881.  James formed a partnership with Gheens in 1899 and Gheens took over the company when James Bradas retired in 1920.

Charles Edwin Gheens was a native of Louisville, and son of Charles W. and Mary G. Gheens.  He as ready to enter Yale University when he suffered a typhoid attack.  After recovery he entered the candy business, as mentioned above, and where he spent his entire business career.

Edwin’s first wife, Kathryn Cox, died at the young age of 25 – he was only 26.  Their infant child died before the mother.  Kathryn was the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Attilla Cox.  His second marriage was to Mary Jo Lazarus, daughter of George Harry and Fanny Lazarus of Bowling Green.  She and Mr. Gheens had no children.

Instead the couple directed their efforts to helping their local community in many ways.  The Gheens Foundation was begun, first helping the Baptist seminary with supporting scholars.  After Edwin Gheen’s death November 11, 1961, wife Mary Jo continued the good works in the community.

Mr. Gheens beneficence continued after his wife’s death June 4, 1982, when the Gheens Foundation was run by trustees.  In 1982 creation of Gheens Academy which partners with Jefferson County Public Schools and the funding of STARS Club, also in JCPS to improve the attendance, attitude and academic achievement of “at risk” middle school students.  The University of Louisville has been a recipient of 19 grants totaling $7,375,000, as well as Bellarmine, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Boy Scouts, Fund for the Arts, Louisville Zoo and Metro United Way.  The University of Louisville’s Gheens Science Center and Planetarium was funded by Mr. Gheens.

The Gheens Mausoleum features a likeness of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper painted on glass in the rear window.  If you peek through the decorative glass doors of the mausoleum it is a beautiful sight to behold.

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