Eames: United in Life and in Death Posted August 20, 2018 by Marlow Hoffman
Charles and Ray Eames, legendary designers united in work, love, and life, were also united in death. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Charles’s passing and the 30th anniversary of Ray’s.
After a nearly 40-year marriage and collaboration, Charles died on August 21, 1978. Ray followed 10 years later to the day.
Given how close the two were, perhaps it isn’t so surprising that they died on the same day of the year. From the time they met to the time Charles passed away, almost every endeavor pursued was one they pursued together.
The couple’s ashes are buried at Calvary Cemetery, whose vast, peaceful grounds are located in St. Louis, Missouri, where Charles grew up. Their gravesite location can be seen in the map below, along with those of other notable people such as Tennessee Williams and Dred Scott.
A joint gravestone marks the couple’s final resting place. It is adorned with a beautiful engraved dove and heart by Charles’s daughter, Lucia Eames, whom he raised with Ray. Their ashes—his to the left and hers to the right—are beside those of Charles’s parents, Charles Ormand Eames (1849-1921) and Celine Lambert Eames (1879-1957).
The front right corner of the 100-square-foot site, which Celine purchased in 1921, is marked by a simple, unadorned square stone that’s flush with the grass and embossed with the letter “E.”
Everyone has heard of longtime couples that are inseparable in death just as they were in life, with one passing away shortly after the other. But in Ray’s case, she seemed to know there was far too much to do—too many loose ends to tie up to follow Charles so soon.
They’d poured themselves into every project they worked on, bringing playful exuberance and intellectual rigor to films, furniture designs, graphics, exhibitions, and ultimately, to bettering our lives. Though heartbroken, Ray understood how important it was to keep moving forward and to preserve their immense body of work. With the help of staff and colleagues, she spent the last decade of her life finishing projects, putting together a book of the Eames Office’s seemingly endless creations, and cataloging its overwhelming collection of two-dimensional works in preparation for the Library of Congress.
Only after that had been completed did Ray join Charles. Her health went downhill rapidly, and she spent her final days in a hospital surrounded by loved ones. A visitor who saw Ray on the eve of her passing recalls her words, which touchingly expressed where her heart and thoughts lay. She said, “I know what day tomorrow is…”