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Tombstone shaves years off age of late New York Mayor Ed Koch

June 18, 2013|By Tina Susman

NEW YORK -- It's widely known that former New York Mayor Ed Koch planned every detail of his funeral and burial, and for good reason. The one thing he couldn't oversee -- the final etchings on his tombstone -- is wrong.

If he were alive to see it, Koch might laugh at the mistake. After all, it shaved 18 years off the age of the 88-year-old Koch, who died of congestive heart failure in February. 

The tombstone at Koch's grave in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan lists the three-term mayor's birthdate as Dec. 12, 1942, instead of Dec. 12, 1924, a mistake first reported Monday by NBC News in New York

"You could call it a grave mistake," the news anchor said in introducing the segment. According to that report, Koch's former chief of staff, Diane Coffey, and other close associates had been alerted to the error by the Trinity Church cemetery. 

"We were appalled to hear it had been transposed," Coffey said of the incorrect birthdate.

Everything else on the tombstone, which Koch personally designed along with his funeral and his burial spot, is correct, and the stonecutter who etched the birth date and date of death says the sole error soon will be fixed. 

"I have to make it right. I will correct it," the engraver, Tommy Flynn of Flynn Funeral and Cremation Memorial Services, told NBC 4

The mistake was made after Koch died. The rest of the stone's etchings were done several years earlier. They include the words of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl before his slaying by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan: "My father is Jewish; my mother is Jewish; I am Jewish."

They also list Koch's years as mayor of New York, from 1978 to 1989.

Koch's long-time friend, George Arzt, told local media he heard about the goof when an official of Trinity Church cemetery called.

"It took my breath away," Arzt said of the mistake.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

Twitter: @tinasusman

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