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Ringling feud delays burial for 55 years

Circus king John Ringling, dead since 1936, finally has been laid to rest, burying a family feud that left his remains in a temporary vault for more than half a century. In a small, private ceremony, John Ringling, his wife Mable, dead since 1929, and his sister, Ida Ringling North, dead since 1950, were buried Tuesday on the grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art.

Buried with them were years of family fighting and legal wrangling over Ringling's final resting place and whether the three should be interred together in Sarasota, still the winter home to the Greatest Show on Earth.

The burial carries out a ruling from a state appeals court that John and Mable Ringling and Ida Ringling North be buried on the grounds of the museum _ where Henry North Ringling, John's nephew and Ida's son, intended to have them buried.

One side of the family _ including Patricia Ringling Buck, John Ringling's grandniece; Alice Lancaster, another grandniece; and Charles Lancaster, John Ringling's grandnephew _ had tried to keep the Ringlings from being reburied in Sarasota.

They were willing to compromise and have the world-famous circus magnate and his wife buried on the property. But they didn't want Ida, insisting that her presence there was not historically important.

Although somewhat clouded by history, the battle apparently had its roots in the early 1930s with a falling out between John Ringling and nephew John Ringling North, Ida's son.

John Ringling disinherited both of Ida's sons, John Ringling North and Henry Ringling North, but did not remove John Ringling North as executor of his will.

John Ringling might have contributed to his own unrest. Before his death in 1936 from pneumonia, he did not specify a final resting place for himself or his wife, who died in 1929. Ida died in 1950.

A 10-year fight over control of John Ringling's fortune was launched. Control finally went to the nephew he disinherited.

In 1989, family members learned that the bodies of John and Mable had been quietly moved from "temporary" crypts in Fairview, N.J. and shipped to Florida two years earlier. Also in 1989, the family discovered Ida's remains had been stored in a Sarasota funeral home.

In 1987, after his brother and sister and all of his first cousins died, Henry Ringling North had himself legally appointed John Ringling's next of kin and began his quest to have his mother and John and Mable buried on the museum grounds.