Celebrated circus performer gets grave marked after 81 years of anonymity


Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson sprinkles sawdust over the grave of Lucia Zora during a ceremony dedicating her grave marker. To her left is her sister and fellow genealogist Jean Ellen Wilson and funeral director Rick Haisley. Indian River Magazine Publisher Gregory Enns is to her right. ED DRONDOSKI PHOTO

FORT PIERCE — After 81 years, celebrated circus performer Lucia Zora, known as “the bravest woman in the world,’’ no longer lies in an unmarked grave.

Mayor Linda Hudson on Monday unveiled a grave marker during a dedication ceremony at Riverview Memorial Park in Fort Pierce. The marker, purchased by Indian River Magazine, bears Zora’s name, years of birth and death, and brandishes the epitaph, “The Bravest Woman in the World.’’

Zora’s parents, Milton and Myra Card, were pineapple farmers who lived in the landmark brick home on Indian River Drive that Zora and her husband, Fred Alispaw, lived in when they retired from circus life. They even raised a baby elephant there.

Zora, one of the world’s first female animal trainers, was best known for bringing lions and tigers into the same arena. Circus agents billed her as “the bravest woman in the world’’ and she gained national fame on the publication of her autobiography, “Sawdust and Solitude.’' After her years in the circus and a short-lived retirement in Colorado, she and Alispaw moved to Fort Pierce and took over her parents’ estate after their deaths.

unmarked grave

After 81 years, the grave of circus performer Lucia Zora finally has a grave marker. ED DRONDOSKI PHOTO

Zora died in 1936 and was buried at the local cemetery, but her husband never bothered to buy a marker for her grave site. “He was very tight with money,’’ said his great niece by marriage, Mari-Lynn Herringshaw, who attended Monday’s ceremony.

She lay unheralded and unknown in an unmarked grave until 2010, when Indian River Magazine did a story exploring her life. During the course of reporting, the magazine discovered through genealogical researchers Jean Ellen Wilson and Linda Hudson, who are sisters, that Zora’s parents had purchased grave sites at Riverview Memorial Park, then known as Fort Pierce Cemetery. Sonya-Elizabeth Trachtman, manager of the cemetery, said it was discovered through digging that three burial vaults lay in the Card plot. Herringshaw concluded that they could only be those of Zora and her parents. The idea for placing a marker at the site came to fruition when Hudson, Wilson and Herringshaw were featured in a panel discussion on Zora’s life at the Treasure Coast History festival, sponsored by Indian River Magazine, in January. Indian River Magazine publishers Gregory Enns and Allen Osteen purchased the marker, with cemetery owners Rick Haisley and Bill Yates providing a generous discount.

Lucia Zora

Lucia Zora, who spent her career traveling throughout the United States and retired to Fort Pierce, gives a wave while aboard her favorite elephant, Snyder.

To read Indian River Magazine stories on Lucia Zora and her unmarked grave go to:




To see the magazine stories in their original version visit:


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