Unmarked grave of ‘bravest woman’ circus performer Lucia Zora to be dedicated Monday in Fort Pierce

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.

Since 1936, Lucia Zora, a circus animal trainer billed as “the bravest woman in the world,’’ has lain in an unmarked grave at Riverview Memorial Park in Fort Pierce.

That will change Monday, when a grave marker bearing her name is unveiled and dedicated by Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson.

unmarked grave

Riverview Memorial Park general manager Sonya-Elizabeth Trachtman points to the unmarked grave believed to be that of the celebrated circus performer Lucia Zora. ED DRONDOSKI PHOTO

Zora was one of the nation’s first female animal trainers and was best known for getting lions and tigers, natural enemies, to perform together in the same arena. She chronicled her life in the circus and later an attempt at retirement in Colorado in her autobiography, “Sawdust and Solitude.’’

Lucia Zora

Lucia Zora

Her parents, Milton and Myra Card, were early pineapple farmers along the banks of the Indian River and Zora spent her retirement in their landmark brick home on South Indian River Drive in Fort Pierce. Zora and husband and fellow animal trainer Fred Alispaw decorated the home with much of their memorabilia from the circus and even tended a baby elephant on the grounds.

Fred Alispaw

Fred Alispaw

Zora died in 1936 at the age of 59 and was buried in the family plot of her parents at the family plot at Riverview Memorial Park, formerly the Fort Pierce Cemetery. During the course of reporting for a recounting Zora’s life, Indian River Magazine discovered in 2010 that her grave had never been marked. Mayor Hudson and her sister, Jean Wilson, discovered the unmarked graves while conducting genealogical research on the family. Cemetery records showed that three people were buried at the plot owned by the Cards, but records gave no indication of their identities.

Home in Fort Pierce where Zora lived

Home in Fort Pierce where Zora lived.

Mari-Lynn Herringshaw, a great niece of Alispaw, said the graves were those of the Cards and Zora. She concluded that Alispaw, known for being thrifty, never bothered to buy a marker for his late wife. Herringshaw, Hudson and Wilson appeared in a panel discussion in January at the Treasure Coast History Festival sponsored by Indian River Magazine. The discussion prompted the magazine to purchase the grave marker that will be dedicated on Monday.

“One of our missions is to share the history of the Treasure Coast,’’ said Indian River Publisher Gregory Enns. “In sharing the story of Lucia Zora, we learned of this slight and wanted to correct it. We hope it will become yet another historical site people can visit on the Treasure Coast.’’

Zora cover issue

The saga over Zora’s burial echoes the tale of another famous Zora from Fort Pierce. Zora Neale Hurston, the author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God,’’ was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce’s Garden of Heavenly Rest until 1973, when novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt placed a marker at the site.


The dedication will be held at 10 a.m. at Riverside Memorial Park, 1101 N. U.S. 1., Fort Pierce, and will be officiated by Mayor Linda Hudson. Reach the grave site from the south side main entrance and park near the cemetery office The media and public are invited. For more information, contact Indian River Magazine Publisher Gregory Enns at 772.940.9005

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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