Breathing life back into Dr. Albert Rhea- the prominent Long Beach physician and silver mine owner- Scott Ringwelski was among the actors and history buffs telling visitors “13 Stories of Bad Luck” at the 13th Annual Historical Cemetery Tour last Saturday at the century-old Sunnyside Cemetery. In his “Collision Calamity” tale, he recounted how the “stone deaf” Rhea’s underlying life theme seemed to be “never saw it coming.”
One afternoon in 1907, while riding his bicycle to attend to business downtown, he unknowingly met up with the Redondo Avenue Trolley. “They blew the whistle, they rang the bell, there were kids screaming and yelling,” he said. “I was within inches of being safe, but the train touched the back of my rear tire, and it tore it right off. It flew up, it broke the windows in the trolley, and the impact just flung the bicycle with me on it right back down on the track. And, like a giant, red dragon, it just devoured me.” After a moment of explicit description, he continued with the next bad-luck stroke. “I died within minutes, and the worst part was that my wife Hannah, who was on her way down the street to go and visit a friend, came upon me accidentally. They brought me here…set me up with my beautiful ‘Angel of Sorrows’.”
The angel to which Ringwelski referred is the tombstone statue that was the subject of a 1939 shot by photographer Ansel Adams (see inset), which features the “Angel” with oil derricks in the background. The photograph was used in the March 1941 issue of Fortune magazine in an article about the Los Angeles area’s use as a breeding ground for the country’s air power.
Ringwelski talked about determination and overcoming setbacks, which, he said, are “not necessarily a handicap or end to your life. The story here is not that I died tragically, but that I lived victoriously.”