St. Louis — Joseph Marconnot was born in St. Louis on May 8, 1860, and died on December 27, 1924, leaving behind a substantial sum of money. His great-great-nephew, Tim Sellee, is in charge of “Uncle Joe”, ensuring his preservation.
Joseph Marconnot rests as a 98-year-old mummy in a family mausoleum, continuing his story beyond death.
“He owned what is now known as Carondelet Park, and he sold the property to the city,” said Tim. “And then instead of passing all the money on to his family because, he didn’t have kids, he put all his money in perpetual care for himself.”
Tim said that he got the story from his dad that Uncle Joe wanted to be the modern-day King Tut.
“Not everybody has a mummy in their family. I think it’s kind of cool. I come up here to sweep out the leaves. Sometimes I come up here and talk to Uncle Joe,” said Tim. “I thought it was weird at first, but once you figure out his personality, [it’s different]. ‘I didn’t want anyone to look at me when I was alive; now everyone looks at me while I am dead,'” Tim said, imitating his uncle.
The story according to Tim is that Uncle Joe was mean. “When he died, they found a bunch of baseballs and stuff like that that would go into his yard, and he would yell at the kids and then take the balls. They found baskets of balls.”
Whoever is the firstborn son is in charge of Uncle Joe. “Going down the line, it switched from Morgan to Sellee because they had two girls. And then my great grandpa, my grandpa, my dad and me and then my son Sam would be next. He is not interested in doing it, but,” Tim shrugged.
Uncle Joe had his parents and sister moved into the mausoleum when he died. They have a marble casket across from him.
“In 2002, some gal came through here and ran her car into the mausoleum and knocked the casket over,” said Tim.
At that point, Uncle Joe’s casket slid into his parent and sister. It put a hole in their box as well.
When the accident happened, Tim realized that Uncle Joe had a sister who died at a young age and that his great-great-great grandparents were not preserved correctly. Whoever put them in the marble box just piled all their bones in there together.
When the accident happened, Southern Funeral Homes, which takes care of Uncle Joe, also helped preserve his parents.
“I was surprised because that got damaged in that wreck too,” said Tom Sellee, Tim’s father. “And when we opened that casket up, they were just on the ground in there. Southern, put them all in a box and put them back inside.”
Uncle Joe was removed from the mausoleum and was patched up at Southern Funeral Home. The marble door cracked due to excavation work at the rock quarry, and the family removed the glass window that was used to display Uncle Joe because of vandals.
“It kept getting vandalized, so they just blocked it off,” said Tim. “It used to be a giant marble door, but the quarries right there—it’s just sad because you see a bunch of broken tombstones. They don’t use this quarry anymore, but when they did their blasts, it would knock down all these old tombstones. It broke the door, and my dad worked for a steel manufacturing company that made jail doors, so he put this door on here.”
Strange occurrences have been happening inside the mausoleum, such as leaves appearing despite it being sealed and locked. Tim said that he and his father are the only two family members who have keys to the mausoleum.
“There are only two people that have the keys: my dad and I. When we came up here together, neither of us had been here for a while. But suddenly there are leaves everywhere in the mausoleum,” said Tim.
When the door was shut, the mausoleum was dark and sealed off.
“That is a new lock; I put that lock on, and there are only two keys. So, I don’t get it,” Tim said, not understanding how leaves would get into a locked and sealed mausoleum.
Later on the phone, Tim told his father about how he found the mausoleum just before this interview.
“When I came in, the lid had slid behind the casket. The lid by his face has popped off and slid down,” said Tim, telling his father over the phone. “I’ve got to get some clips and fix that. But how did it slide down?”
“Yeah, ok, whatever you think,” Tom said, sounding like a skeptic.
When asked if Uncle Joe would last forever, Tim replied, “As long as I keep the termites out of him, we’re good.”
Uncle Joe is on display to the public on every major Catholic holiday and his birthday, which is May 8. Tim plans on opening up the mausoleum in the afternoon of the 8th. Next year marks the 100th year of Uncle Joe being mummified.