Jack and Patricia Lipinski plan to be around for many more years, but about two years ago the couple started to have some serious conversations about the future.
“If anything happened to either of us, we wanted to take away as many tasks from our daughter as possible,” Patricia Lipinski said. Among those tasks would be selecting a final resting place for the family. Located in Charleston, South Carolina, Magnolia Cemetery opened in 1850 as one of the country’s new “rural Victorian” cemeteries. Located on the grounds of the former Magnolia Umbra plantation, its 92 acres features perfectly manicured grounds, winding paths, trees and ponds as well as massive monuments.
“We were drawn to the cemetery for many reasons … its history, its beauty,” Jack Lipinski said. “It was just the right place.” And then there was the cemetery’s proximity to Kiawah Island, where the couple’s daughter, Olympic figure skating gold medalist Tara Lipinski, has a home. “Tara’s had a home there for 12 or 13 years,” Jack Lipinski said. “She loves the area … so it made sense.” After walking the grounds of the cemetery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lipinskis – who live primarily in Houston, Texas – chose a plot nestled among the beautiful oaks and magnolias located in the Belvidere section to build their private family mausoleum. The 10-crypt mausoleum is based on a picture Pat Lipinski presented to Coldspring’s design team. “I’m not exactly sure where I found the picture, but it was something that I’ve held on to for a long time,” Pat Lipinski said. “It reminded me of a little chapel … and I love little chapels.” Working from the picture, the designer was able to create a mausoleum that featured spires, columns, stained-glass windows, ornate moldings and more. It was also designed to hold 10 crypts, which was a must for the family. “Tara didn’t want us – or her – to be buried in the ground,” Pat Lipinski said. When the designs were submitted for approval, Pat Lipinski was pleased that the essence of the picture was captured in the renderings. “It was exactly what we wanted,” she said. In early spring 2015, the board of trustees of Magnolia Cemetery approved the architectural/engineer drawings and style of the building. By the first week in May, the foundation had been poured and the first row of granite was in place.
Coldspring project manager Jason Craft was involved from the start. As the project was in the design stages, Craft was in Charleston looking over the site. “It was in a fairly difficult location in the cemetery,” Craft noted, “it took a lot of planning to make sure we could get the equipment in place without disturbing the surrounding area.”
Because of the weight of the mausoleum, it was important that the project be properly supported, Craft said. “The finished project weighs about 210,000 pounds, and we wanted to make sure that it would be stable, secure and not sink (into the ground),” Craft said.
A local pile driving company was enlisted to help come up with solutions to overcome obstacles, including driving 16 pilings into the ground to support the structure. As part of the process, a 3-D model of the mausoleum was created. Individual pieces were then cut, with the precise cutting information sent to Coldspring’s manufacturing plant in Minnesota. At the plant, the individual pieces were cut to scale from the Royal Sable granite the Lipinskis had selected.
The granite pieces were then bundled and shipped to Charleston on five trucks. Putting together the mausoleum, which numbered more than 200 pieces, was a painstaking process, Craft said. “We were onsite for about two-and-a-half weeks from sunup to sundown,” he said. “Building the mausoleum was kind of like doing a paint by number. Each piece was numbered and shown on the drawing, so as the trucks came in, we unbundled the pieces, building from the bottom up.” Construction was completed in early summer. “It’s an impressive structure,” Craft said. “It’s not a square box … there are a lot of unique features. It really fits beautifully into its surroundings.” Patrick Harwood, a communications professor at the College of Charleston, agrees. Harwood is very familiar with Magnolia, having published two books about South Carolina’s oldest public cemetery: “Birds of Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston’s Secret Bird Sanctuary” and “In the Arms of Angels: Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston’s Treasure of History, Mystery, and Artistry.”
He calls the Lipinski mausoleum an amazing new addition to the cemetery, noting that the structure “is truly in the style of the 19th century Victorian necropolis.” In “In the Arms of Angels,” Harwood devotes a chapter to families in modern times that mark the graves of loved ones with big, beautiful angels, crosses, mausoleums and other funerary art. “The design of the Lipinski mausoleum harkens back to that bygone era when massive but elegant and artistic sculptures and structures dotted ‘rural’ cemeteries outside urban areas,” Harwood noted. It is great, Harwood added, that there are still families with the desire and financial means to erect largescale monuments and memorials. “It is refreshing to see such creative creations amid the rather dull ground or lawn markers so prevalent at many of today’s cemeteries,” he said. The Lipinskis would not say how much the project cost.
For Jack Lipinski, CEO and president at CVR Energy in Sugar Land, Texas, it was important to be hands on from the conception of the design to the mausoleum’s completion. “I needed to be informed along the way … and I was,” Lipinski noted. “The finished project is exactly what we wanted.” Pat Lipinski was exuberant in her praise. “I loved it … it was everything I imagined and more,” she said. “It’s really a work of art.” Attention was paid to every detail – from the wrought iron doors to the stained-glass windows to the smallest of architectural moldings. “It just fits perfectly under the trees … it looks like it belongs there,” Pat Lipinski said. Once the private estate mausoleum was completed, the Lipinskis went to work landscaping the area as well as adding two benches resembling tree branches.
“This is a special place for us … we wanted it to look its best,” Pat Lipinski said. Their daughter has visited the cemetery and has seen the mausoleum. And while Tara – who now works as a figure skating analyst – doesn’t want to contemplate a future without her parents, Pat Lipinski knows she and her husband made the right decision. “Tara is our only child, and we are such a close family,” Pat Lipinski said. “This is something that we wanted to do, needed to do.” Having spent time at the cemetery during the past two years, the Lipinskis have gained a greater appreciation for Magnolia, its history, and its beauty. “It’s just a wonderfully peaceful and beautiful place,” Pat Lipinski said.
The couple will be adding to the cemetery’s beauty in the coming months, as well. “The cemetery has a lot of old trees, and we’re working with the cemetery staff to add some oak trees to the grounds,” Jack Lipinski said. “It’s our way of giving back.”
Article C/O American Cemetery & Cremation