Tiverton, Rhode Island, population 14,000, had grown accustomed to seeing Rose Sylvia Martin of Hilton Street do her errands behind the wheel of her white 1962 Chevrolet Corvair. She bought it in 1962 for $2,500 and for the next 36-years, she kept the vehicle running - the final reading on the odometer was 87,000 miles.

A homemaker, she had also enjoyed employment at a bakery and at Vintex Fabrics in Fall River. She was past president of the Holy Ghost Church Womens Guild; past treasurer of the Tiverton Parent-Teacher Association; a member of the Tiverton Senior Center; a member of the Tiverton Senior Citizens Club; vice president and past president of the John M. Arruda Club in Fall River; treasurer of the Tiverton Widow & Widowers; a member of the Ladies of St. Anne's of the Holy Ghost Church; and a matron for the Tiverton Police Department for many years, searching and tending to female prisoners at the town jail. She hosted an annual Christmas party for 200.

Rose Martin was loved in Tiverton.

In 1994, she announced to friends and family that she wanted to be buried in the Corvair next to her husband, in the Tiverton public cemetery, known as Pocasset Hill Cemetery.

Rose Martin funeralWhen she died on May 2, 1998 at the Charlton Memorial Hospital after a brief illness, she was 84. She was survived by two daughters and a son, Robert Martin. Her Will was read and sure enough, she asked that she be buried in the Corvair. According to journalist Liz Foran, her son Robert said:

“My sisters and I couldn't talk her out of it."

Easier said than done but the residents of Tiverton knew they owed it to Rose to abide by her last wishes. First, they set aside four plots in the Pocasset Cemetery for the burial and the hole, lined with concrete. The steering wheel, seats, windows and rear engine were removed from the Corvair, the latter to allow the coffin to be inserted. All fluids were drained from the Corvair (and, presumably, from Rose). Six inches had to be sawed off the rear (of the car!) to make the vehicle fit the huge burial plot.

Six local policemen, pre-chosen by Rose, acted as pallbearers and on the grand day. They the dutifully carried her to the disemboweled Corvair, slipped her in, and the Corvair with coffin was lowered by crane into the gaping hole.

REFERERENCES:

  • “Woman Takes Her Corvair for an Eternal Cruise”, Los Angeles Times, May 7, 1998
  • Citro, Joseph, Weird New England (New York: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., 2005), page 219.
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Famous Wills
  • Gauvin, Paul, “Getting in the last word on last words”, South Coast Newspaper, May 12, 1998
  • Foran, Liz, “Driving Into the Next World”, The Providence Journal-Bulletin, May 7, 1998
  • Rogak, Lisa, Stones and Bones of New England (Morris Book Publishing, 2004), pages 163-164
  • South Coast Today Newspaper, Obituaries, May 5, 1998
  • Tiverton, Rhode Island official site