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A Visit with Joe and Clara

For Pilates Day, Lolita San Miguel organized a pilgrimage to the Pilates’ final resting place. by Anne Marie O’Connor.

For years, people have asked Lolita San Miguel, “Where are Joe and Clara buried?” “And I always said, I don’t know, and no one can tell me.” When Joseph Pilates died, on October 9, 1967, San Miguel was just returning from vacation. “By the time I found out he had passed, a week later, no one knew any details,” she recalls. It turns out that Joe was a member of the Masons, and the fraternal organization had taken care of the burial. “That’s why we didn’t know anything.”

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It wasn’t until Lolita’s Disciple, Pilates teacher Kateryna Smirnova, and her husband, Oleg Borys, of Kiev, began playing detective. “Joe’s lawyer, John Steel, gave them a clue, and from that, they discovered where Joe and Clara were buried,” San Miguel reports.

In 2011, San Miguel had organized the first Pilates Day, in Joe’s hometown in Mönchengladbach, Germany, where she placed a memorial plaque. For the 2016 celebration, she decided to include a visit to Joe and Clara’s recently discovered burial site.

So this past May 7, 67 VIPs of the method boarded a bus for the trip from New York City to Ferncliff Cemetery in suburban Hartsdale, NY. The celebration began with a ceremony in the cemetery’s chapel, emceed by Brent Anderson, the founder of Polestar Pilates. Elizabeth Anderson spoke on behalf of the PMA, followed by representatives of different lineages: Alycea Ungaro for Romana Kryzanowska; Blossom Leilani Crawford for Kathy Grant; Pat Guyton for Ron Fletcher; and Deborah Lessen for Carola Trier. “I asked them each to bring a memory of their teacher,” San Miguel says. “Mary Bowen and I also spoke. After the ceremony, everybody was handed a white carnation, and we went to visit the niche where Joe and Clara’s ashes are in two lovely urns, located in a long beautiful hallway of Masons.”

After the ceremony, everyone returned to Manhattan for a party in a space on West 40th Street, where Pavel L’vov, the husband of Lolita’s Disciple, Nichole L’vov, works. “We had a catered meal overlooking the whole city,” San Miguel recalls. “It was a German menu—sauerbraten, schnitzel, potato salad and sauerkraut. And lots of beer and wine, which Joe would have liked!”

The festivities, which were sponsored by the PMA, Balanced Body and San Miguel’s foundation, the Pilates Trust, also included a cocktail party Friday night at Pilates Reforming New York, where San Miguel and Brett Howard gave a presentation on the life of the Pilates. Overall, the weekend was quite touching but also very joyful,” San Miguel says. “We were truly celebrating Joe and Clara’s lives, and the beautiful legacy they have left us.

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