My dad had a friend called Joe Bona. I grew up occasionally seeing him at our house in the 50s, especially at functions like my dad’s blow-out New Year’s Eve parties—where there would be like 100 guests; one year I remember the then governor Dan Thorton (Thorton, Colorado bears his name) being there. Somewhere there’s a photo of me sitting on the gov’s knee. There were helium balloons everywhere, lots of food, and booze. Anyway, getting back to Joe Bona. He was the president of Olinger’s Mortuary in Denver, the building is now a restaurant. “The former site of Denver’s historic Olinger Mortuary is now a new bar and restaurant called Linger.”
When Joseph Bona first started out at the fledgling Olinger’s Mortuary, he was a young mortician.
There was another young man called William S Cody who came from another part of the country. “William Frederick Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917), known as “Buffalo Bill“, was an American soldier, bison hunter, and showman. He was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory (now the U.S. state of Iowa), but he lived for several years in his father’s hometown in modern-day Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, before the family returned to the Midwest and settled in the Kansas Territory.
Buffalo Bill started working at the age of eleven, after his father’s death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 15. During the American Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872.
One of the most famous and well-known figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill’s legend began to spread when he was only 23. Shortly thereafter he started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and continental Europe. Read more…
”William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846–1917) was neither born in Colorado nor lived in the state. In death, however, he became one of its most famous residents. Cody’s first experience in Colorado came in 1859, when he was a thirteen-year-old participant in the Colorado Gold Rush. Like many other gold seekers, he left Colorado disappointed. He visited many times after that, returning in 1917 to die at his sister’s home in Denver. Just before his death, Cody asked to be buried on Lookout Mountain, above Golden, overlooking the Great Plains. Today, the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave is a destination for thousands of people from all over the world, who come to pay their respects to one of the nation’s most famous showmen.” Read more…
My sister, Claudia Carbone, did the research and told me the following story, I paraphrase. Here’s a link to Claudia’s story.
There is a story that has been going around for years that William Cody’s body was dug up and stolen from Buffalo Bill’s Grave by grave diggers in the middle of the night. Corpse stealing mauraders from Cody, Wyoming who believed that Cody’s body belonged in Wyoming. Not neccesarily true!
It just so happens that when Cody died, his corpse was taken to Denver’s—you guessed it—Olinger Mortuary. The young mortician—you guessed correctly again—Joeseph Bona, my dad’s friend.
Facts matter, so here are the true facts and the rest of the story. Cody’s family and friends got wind of the body snatchers from Wyoming’s plan to dig up and steal Buffalo Bills corpse like thieves in the night. So—not wanting to loose the body, they devised a plan to prevent the theft. They poured several feet of concrete over the coffin, ensuring that William S Cody would forever rest peacefully in Buffalo Bills Grave on top of Lookout Mountain… in Colorado.
Everyone has the freedom and right to choose either story, 1) that Buffalo Bill’s body was dug up and removed to Cody Wyoming… or 2) that Buffalo Bill is resting in Buffalo Bills Grave in Colorado. I, for one, choose to believe Colorado’s mortician, and my dad’s friend, Joe Bona, rather than a renegade band of body snaching thieves from Wyoming.
Story by William Carbone ©2022 All rights reserved.