My New Favorite Cemetery Book

Cemeteries of Illinois: A Field Guide to Markers, Monuments, and MotifsCemeteries of Illinois: A Field Guide to Markers, Monuments, and Motifs by Hal Hassen and Dawn Cobb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my new favorite cemetery book. It covers the history of burial in the state of Illinois from the Mound Builders to the modern lawn cemeteries. Along the way, it defines the different materials for marking graves, explores gravestone iconography, and is generally to cemeteries what the Audubon Guide is to birds. This is a perfect beginner book, even if you don’t live in Illinois. It would be a perfect textbook for a cemetery history class.

The only issue one might have with the book is that while it contains almost 300 full-color photos, they are purely snapshots, not artwork. I didn’t find that a drawback, but then I have a couple hundred cemetery books, many of them focusing on the artistry of cemetery landscaping and sculpture. This book serves as a nice companion to those.

I bought it on the basis of a glowing review in the Association for Gravestone Studies Quarterly. It did not disappoint.

You can pick up a copy to entice someone else into loving cemeteries from Amazon: https://amzn.to/337LdaY. Check out the “also bought” links at the bottom of that page. I was surprised to discover that you can get a deal on 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die!

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

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The lovely photography of Nasser K

I just discovered another photographer making art from cemeteries. He introduced himself with the email below and intrigued me enough to follow his link.  I hope you will feel the same way.

From Nasser:

I would like to share with you a new body of work called Life and Then – A Photographic Exploration of Cemeteries.  I have been photographing cemeteries for some time now. I understand that not everyone is comfortable with the subject I have chosen, as I was not when I began the project about nine years ago. Over time, I started enjoying my visits to the cemeteries.  It was interesting to learn how each culture, religion, or geographic areas treat their dead. These visits have put life in perspective for me. It was comforting to know with all the inequities in life, we all will die at the end. During my visits, I do not seek the graveyards of rich and famous; it was the ordinary people, and the stories that I imagined of them interested me the most. Art and life at cemeteries also made my photographic exploration more enjoyable.

At this junction in my never-ending cemetery project, I felt that it is time to share a selection of my images. The collection that I have chosen for my Life and Then portfolio centered on landscape and art at cemeteries. I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I enjoyed being there to capture them.

https://www.nasserk.com/Portfolio/Life-and-Then

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Sacred Ground in New Orleans

Sacred Ground: The Cemeteries of New Orleans (stunning duotone photographs of New Orleans legendary cemeteries)Sacred Ground: The Cemeteries of New Orleans by Robert S. Brantley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a lot of cemetery books. I even have a lot of books about the cemeteries of New Orleans. This one is a worthy addition to my library because it goes off in a direction none of the others do. The photographer allowed himself to become obsessed by some of the grave monuments he photographed to the point that he wanted to know who these people were. The stories he uncovers are fascinating, touching, and range far beyond the famous names you would expect. Soldiers, duelists, priests, bankers, violin makers, opera singers, firemen, and more: these people each contributed to the history of this special city, even if their names are no longer widely known.

The black and white photographs, while exquisitely shot, do not stray as far from the usual subjects. Some of that is because St. Louis Cemetery #1 is so well documented, but even the photos of Metairie and Lafayette #1 are common to many other cemetery books. Still, the way many of the photos are taken–emphasizing the dramatic Louisiana skies–made me long to return to New Orleans and see those sights for myself. I think I will spend a lot of time gazing at these pictures.

One of my favorite parts of the photographic section of the book is the way that the repeating motifs are collected together, so the reader can appreciate the iconography of benevolent society tombs or the variations of ornate ironwork crosses or the artistry in all the different styles of urns. New Orleans was truly blessed by the gifts of its sculptors.

The essay which closes the book allows Brantley to explain his relationship to the artwork and architecture he has captured. He speaks of the cemetery as an outdoor museum. His photography certainly proves his point.

If you don’t have any books on the cemeteries of New Orleans, this is a good place to start. If you do, this will be a nice addition to your collection. You can pick up your own copy of this brand-new book from Amazon: https://amzn.to/339O2JF

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Obligatory notice: I received a copy of this book from the publishers, but chose to review it on my own.

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2019 Bay Area Cemetery Events

Saturday, September 21, 2019 from 9 am-noon
San Lorenzo Cemetery Clean Up and Open Day
Usher Street and College Street, San Lorenzo, CA 94580
Drop by to help preserve our local historic cemetery! Bring gloves, rakes, and water. A hat, sunscreen, eye protection, and study shoes are recommended. The cemetery will also be open during this time for the public to visit the grounds and ask questions.
Admission: Free
More info: https://www.haywardareahistory.org/calendar/2019/9/21/cemetery-clean-up-amp-open-day

IMG_1788Sunday, September 22, 2019 from 1-4 pm
Spirits of St. Helena Cemetery Discovery Walk
St. Helena Public Cemetery, 2461 Spring Street, St. Helena, CA 94574
Tours depart from the cemetery’s front gate at 1 and 2 pm. The stories of French and Swiss winemakers, portrayed by St. Helena High School Drama Club students, will be featured during the St. Helena Historical Society’s 17th annual “Spirits of St. Helena” Cemetery Discovery Walk. Each tour will visit selected gravesites on the St. Helena Cemetery grounds. Tours take place rain or shine. Please wear comfortable walking shoes. More info: 707-967-5502 or email shstory@shstory.org; visit shstory.org; or find the St. Helena Historical Society on Facebook.
Admission: $10
More info: https://shstory.org/events/#spirits-cemetery-walk

Sunday, September 22, 2019 from 4:30-7 pm
Evening Hike to Rose Hill Cemetery
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve: Upper Parking Lot, 37.958359, -121.86326, Antioch, CA
Long ago, miners left their mark on these hills. Take a hike to historic Rose Hill Cemetery to learn their tales of spirit, heroism, tragedy, and endurance.
Parking fee: $5. Tour: Free
More Info: http://apm.activecommunities.com/ebparks/Activity_Search/26333

Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 10 am
Food Tour of Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Ave, Oakland CA 94611
Docent-led tour of Oakland’s beautiful Mountain View Cemetery by Barbara Gibson & Jane Leroe, who will focus on the cemetery’s connection to food.
Admission: Free
More info: https://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/events/upcoming-events

Friday, October 4, 2019 at 5:30 pm, 6:15 pm, 7 pm, 7:45 pm
Saturday, October 05, 2019 at 5:30 pm, 6:15 pm, 7 pm, 7:45 pm
17th Annual Sebastopol Cemetery Walk
Meet at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 500 Robinson Road (off Bodega Ave.), Sebastopol, CA
The evening begins with a soup, salad, antipasto, and bread supper held at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Sebastopol. Plenty of parking is available at the church. Please arrive at least 15 minutes before your showtime. After supper, your group will be led to Sebastopol Memorial Lawn Cemetery by a tour guide, accompanied by the very popular Hubbub Club, who describe themselves as “a cross between a New Orleans marching band and a Fellini movie.” At the cemetery, your tour guide will lead you through the luminary-lit route.
Admission: $45.00 ($48.24 w/service fee)
Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4290773

Saturday, October 5, 2019 from 9 am-noon
Volunteer at the Presidio Pet Cemetery
667 McDowell Avene, San Francisco, CA 94129
The Presidio Pet Cemetery is the final resting place for hundreds of the faithful companions of the military families who lived at the Presidio when it was an Army post. The pet cemetery has been closed off for almost 10 years in order to protect it during the Doyle Drive replacement project, but it will reopen to the public very soon. Help us get the pet cemetery in tip-top condition by joining us to paint its brand-new fence!
Admission: This volunteer event is free and open to all ages. Space is very limited, so registration is required. For questions, please email volunteer@presidiotrust.gov.
More info: https://www.presidio.gov/events/volunteer-at-presidio-pet-cemetery

Saturday, October 12, 2019 at 10 am
Exploring Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland CA 94611
Docent-led tour Oakland’s lovely Mountain View Cemetery by Barbara Gibson.
Admission: Free
More info: https://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/events/upcoming-events

Saturday, October 12, 2019 from 10 am-2 pm
Alhambra Cemetery Potter’s Field Clean Up
211 Foster Street, Martinez, CA 94553
The Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, established in 1851, has a rich history.  Pay your respects to the many people buried in the cemetery’s potter’s field by helping to clean up debris and remove weeds from the graves of those who built our communities: laborers, restaurant staff, railroad workers, farmers, and veterans. We will also prepare the Chinese Funerary Burner site for future excavation and restoration. Wear comfortable clothes, gloves, and protective eyewear. Lunch for volunteers is generously provided by E Clampus Vitus.
Admission: Free
More info: https://www.martinezcemetery.org/2019-fall-cemetery-cleanup.html

Saturday, October 12, 2019 at 11 am
Trolley Tour of the Eastside, Westside, and Hillside of Cypress Lawn
1370 El Camino Real, Colma, CA 94014
Docent Terry Hamburg guides a tour of beautiful Cypress Lawn that will last about two hours and includes refreshments. The state-of-the-art trolley is heated and air-conditioned. Each tour will have a $50 raffle prize.
Admission: Free. Trolley capacity is 24 riders, so RSVPs are required. Call 650.667.7404 for reservations.
More info: https://www.cypresslawn.com/events/2019/10/trolley-tours-general-excursion-eastside-westside-hillside-2/

Saturday, October 12, 2019 at 6-7 pm
Halloween Costume Parade 2019
Meet at Sterling Park Recreation Center, 427 F Street, Colma, CA 94014
Join us on this Halloween Adventure as we parade and trick or treat from the Sterling Park Recreation Center to the Italian Cemetery. The parade will begin promptly at 6:15 pm at Sterling Park. Don’t forget to wear your best Halloween costume.
Please register by October 9th, 2019 to ensure we have enough goodies for everyone! For more information: (650) 985-5678.
Admission: Colma resident: $1 per youth
Non-resident: $5 per youth
More info: https://www.colma.ca.gov/event/halloween-costume-parade-2019/

Saturday, October 12, 2019 at 7-9 pm
Cinema at the Italian Cemetery
Italian Cemetery, 540 F Street, Colma, CA 94014
Join us for an evening under the stars. Bring your blankets and pack a picnic for the family. Movie screening will be held outdoors on the Italian Cemetery Mausoleum lawn. We will host fun pre-movie activities, including music and a kids’ craft station. We will have a small snack bar on site, serving popcorn, candy, and hot chocolate.
Admission: free. Please call (650) 985-5678 to sign up and find out what the movie is.
More info: https://www.colma.ca.gov/event/cinema-at-the-cemetery-2019/

Saturday, October 19, 2019 from 9 am-noon
San Lorenzo Cemetery Clean Up and Open Day
Usher Street and College Street, San Lorenzo, CA 94580
Drop by to help preserve our local historic cemetery. Bring gloves, rakes, and water. A hat, sunscreen, eye protection, and study shoes are recommended. The cemetery will also be open during this time for the public to visit the grounds and ask questions.
More info: https://www.haywardareahistory.org/calendar/2019/10/19/cemetery-clean-up-amp-open-day

Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 9 am-noon
Volunteer at the Presidio Pet Cemetery
667 McDowell Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129
The Presidio Pet Cemetery is the final resting place for hundreds of the faithful companions of the military families who lived at the Presidio when it was an Army post. The pet cemetery has been closed off for almost 10 years in order to protect it during the Doyle Drive replacement project, but it will reopen to the public very soon. Help us get the pet cemetery in tip-top condition.
Admission: This volunteer event is free and open to all ages. Space is very limited, so registration is required. For questions, please email volunteer@presidiotrust.gov.
More info: https://www.presidio.gov/events/volunteer-at-presidio-pet-cemetery-2019-10-19

Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 10 am
History Hike from Bothe-Napa Valley State Park to Bale Grist Mill State Historical Park
3801 St. Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA 94515
In the past, millers, preachers, teachers, and survivors shared a common thread in the history of the Bale Grist Mill and Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Discover their connection on this hike and learn a bit about natural history, too. You will be led by a park naturalist to the pioneer cemetery and the site of Napa’s first church. After a 1.2-mile hike, you will arrive at the Bale Grist Mill during Old Mill Days, where you can see how pioneers milled grain in the 1800s and join in the harvest-inspired festivities.
Admission: free
More info: https://napaoutdoors.org/parks/bothe-napa-valley-state-park/3rd-saturday-hikes/

Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 10 am
Symbolism Tour of Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland CA 94611
Docent Sandy Rauch leads a tour focusing on the memorial symbolism in Oakland’s lovely Mountain View Cemetery.
Admission: Free
More info: https://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/events/upcoming-events

Saturday, October 19, 2019 from 10:30 am-noon
Petalumans of Yesteryear present their annual Cypress Hill Cemetery Walk
430 Magnolia Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952
The annual “The Lives of the Petaluma Pioneers” fundraising tour begins at the Cypress Hill Cemetery office parking lot. After a greeting by Isaac Wickersham (buried here), groups will be escorted to the gravesites of Captain Tom Baylis, Isaac Garrett Wickersham, Mr. And Mrs. Edward Spalding Lippitt , Mrs. Henry (Addie) Atwater, the McNear family, & William Howard Pepper. The tour concludes inside the Cypress Hill columbarium designed by Brainerd Jones, as narrated by Lyman C. Byce (also buried here).
Admission: $15 + service fee
Tickets: https://cemeterytour2019.brownpapertickets.com/

Friday, October 25, 2019 from 7–10:30 pm
Ghosts of Dublin Pioneer Cemetery tour
Dublin Heritage Park & Museums, 6600 Donlon Way, Dublin, CA 94568
Event is recommended for ages 8 and up. Cemetery tours departing at 10 pm are reserved for 14+. Take a flashlight tour through Dublin’s historic Pioneer Cemetery, where Dublin’s buried past comes alive. Hear haunting stories of ghosts thought to be lurking in Dublin, including reports of recent findings by local paranormal researchers. See ghostly images of long-dead pioneers in Old St. Raymond Church. The tour includes a walk through the Kolb House, where you may have to look twice at the eerie shadows in the corners. Make your way through the dark and creaky 162-year-old Murray School House with only your flashlight to guide you. Fortify yourself with hot cider and cookies in the Sunday School Barn. Tours last approximately 1 hour. Wear comfortable walking shoes and dress warmly. Rain or shine.

Admission: Tickets are $14. One (1) ticket per person. Space is limited and this event will sell out. Purchase your ticket early.
More info: https://dublin.ca.gov/calendar.aspx?PREVIEW=YES&EID=4676

Saturday, October 26, 2019 at 10 am
Historic Irvington Cemetery Tour
41001 Chapel Way, Fremont, CA 94538
Join us for a tour of Irvington Memorial Cemetery, founded in 1845 — before the Gold Rush! Hear and discuss the stories of local pioneers. The tour starts promptly at 10 am.
Admission: free, with donations to support the Washington Township Museum of Local History gladly accepted.
More info: https://museumoflocalhistory.org/

Saturday, October 26, 2019 at 10–11 am
Union Cemetery Tour – Halloween Stories (tentative)
Watch their website from more information.
More info: http://www.historicunioncemetery.com/JoinUs.shtml

Saturday, October 26, 2019 from 10 am–5 pm
Ghost Tour: Shipwrecks of Point Reyes
Bear Valley Picnic Area, 1 Bear Valley Road, Point Reyes Station, CA
Do the ghosts of doomed sailors haunt Point Reyes’ treacherous shores? We’ll pay our respects at a historic cemetery and travel out to the sites of myriad maritime tragedies, seeking personal connection to long lost ships and those who wait to tell their stories from the bottom of the sea. This class will be instructed by Frank Binney. Youth ages 12 and up are welcome with adult supervision.

Admission: $75 for non-members. Registration is required online prior to the event in order to limit class size. If sales have ended, but you would like to attend, contact us at fieldinstitute@ptreyes.org.
Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ghost-tour-shipwrecks-of-point-reyes-tickets-59368253043

Saturday, October 26, 2019 at noon-3pm
14th Annual Pumpkin Festival at Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland CA 94611
Celebrate Halloween at our fun-filled pumpkin patch meadow, with free pumpkins, activities, onsite food trucks, and treats for the kids!
Admission: free
More info: https://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/events/upcoming-events

Friday, November 1, 2019 at 10 am until Sunday, November 3, 2019 at 5 pm
Bouquets to the Dead 2019
90 First Street W, Sonoma, California 95476
Local artists and folk honor their dead and our ancestors at Sonoma Mountain Cemetery for Dia de los Muertos, All Saints Day, and Samhain with a processional from the square. Come one and come all!
Admission: Free
More info: https://allevents.in/sonoma/bouquets-to-the-dead-2019/200017964259018

Friday, November 1 to Saturday, November 30, 2019
Fall Foliage Display at Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Ave, Oakland CA 94611
Stop by and admire the colorful leaves of our redwood and oak trees.
Admission: Free
More info: https://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/events/upcoming-events

Saturday, November 2, 2019 from 10 am-noon
Walking Tour of Old St. Mary’s Cemetery
Meet at the St. Joseph Family Center, 7950 Church Street, Gilroy, CA 95020
The walking tour of Gilroy’s historic Old Saint Mary Cemetery lasts approximately two hours. Reservations are recommended but not required.  To make reservations or for more information call the Gilroy Museum at (408) 846-0446.
Admission: free
More info: https://www.gilroyhistoricalsociety.org/calendar/2019/11/2/walking-tour-old-saint-mary-cemetery

Saturday, November 2, 2019 from 10 am-1:30 pm
Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead Mountain Cemetery Tour
Meet at the Overlook Trail Kiosk, 90 First Street West, Sonoma, CA
Please join us for a lively, informative walk through our historic Mountain Cemetery with amateur historian Fred Allebach. Meet cowboys and Indians, ranchers and real estate tycoons, farmers and farriers, carpenters and stone masons, quarrymen, grocers, butchers, bakers, maybe even a candlestick maker.
Admission: $35
Tickets: https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07egi5n2nme0c94270&oseq=&c=&ch=

Saturday, November 2, 2019 from 12:30 pm-1:30pm
Día de los Muertos
Celebrate the dead with an all-ages festival throughout Downtown Santa Cruz, created in partnership with Senderos. Experience vibrant dance performances. Get your face painted. Indulge in delicious food. Join in on a procession to enjoy more dance, music, and outdoor altars at Evergreen Cemetery. The event will be MC’d by Adriana Frederick-Sutton from Univision. More details are coming.
Admission: free
More info: https://santacruzmah.org/events/d%C3%ADa-2019/2019/11/02

Sunday, November 3, 2019 from 11-3 pm
Haunting Bike Tour of Colma Cemeteries
Bring your bike and meet at the Colma BART Station at 11 am, then take a spirited tour of several massive cemeteries where famous San Franciscans are buried. We’ll visit Woodlawn, Home of Peace and Hills of Eternity, Cypress Lawn, and Holy Cross. We return to Colma or South SF BART together at end of tour. RSVP at shaping@foundsf.org
Admission: We request a $20-50 sliding scale donation for our bike tours (but are flexible and you can pay less–or more!–as you see fit), benefiting Shaping San Francisco.
More info: http://www.shapingsf.org/tours.html#colma

Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 11 am
Kings All – Railroaders Miners & Men of the Forest
Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, 1370 El Camino Real, Colma, CA 94014
Professor Michael Svanevik guides a trolley tour of historic Cypress Lawn that will last about two hours and includes refreshments. The state-of-the-art trolley is heated and air-conditioned. Each tour will have a $50 raffle prize.
Admission: Free. Trolley capacity is 24 riders. RSVPs are required. Call 650.667.7404 for reservations.
More info: https://www.cypresslawn.com/events/2019/11/trolley-tours-kings-railroaders-miners-men-forest/

Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 10 am
Exploring Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland CA 94611
Docent-led tour Oakland’s lovely Mountain View Cemetery by Jane Leroe.
Admission: Free
More info: https://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/events/upcoming-events

Saturday, November 23, 2019 at 10 am
Olmsted & Oakland Notables Tour of Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland CA 94611
Tour of Mountain View Cemetery led by docent Chris Pattillo, focusing on its design by Frederick Law Olmstead and the Oakland notables buried here.
Admission: Free
More info: https://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/events/upcoming-events

Canceled due to restoration work:

Saturday, October 12, 2019 from noon-2 pm
Historic Mare Island Navy Cemetery Tour
Saturday, November 9, 2019 at noon-2 pm
Historic Mare Island Navy Cemetery Tour

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Would you like to join my newsletter?

I’ve been reading for years about author newsletters, how they are the best way to get information out to readers in a timely fashion. I’ve resisted the notion for a long time, figuring I blogged and I’m easy to find on the web, for anyone who might need to know what I’m up to.  But Facebook algorithms being what they are and spam filters working the way they do, I finally decided to join the bandwagon.  I have a new monthly newsletter — and the first issue is coming in the next couple of days.

This is the email I sent out last week.  You may have already gotten a copy. If so, you’ve probably already made your choice about joining the newsletter.  Let me stress that whatever choice you made, it’s fine.

If you joined the mailing list, welcome.  If you figure you hear plenty about my work elsewhere, lovely.  Either way, I will not email you again unless you clicked the link and joined the newsletter list.

For those of you who didn’t get the email (either your spam filter caught it or you weren’t on my invitation list), this is what I sent out.  People who sign up for the newsletter are welcome to download a token of my appreciation:

4Elements instagram

Just click the link in the letter below and it will walk you through the onboarding system.

Thanks for thinking about joining my newsletter!
Rhoads newsletter banner

Dear friend,

You’re receiving this note because we’ve been in contact in the last several years, whether because of my space opera trilogy, the Alondra stories, 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, my travel essays, or through one of my blogs.

I’m finally launching a monthly email newsletter for people who don’t want the commitment of following a blog. Look for quick updates on my speaking & reading schedule, morbid travel destinations (probably a cemetery or two), and book giveaways.

If you’d be interested in receiving the newsletter no more than once a month, please sign up here.

If you’re not interested, you don’t need to do anything. I know you’re busy and I don’t want to clutter up your inbox. This is the one and only time I’ll send you an email about my newsletter.

Thanks for reading!

Loren Rhoads
Author & Editor

Rhoads Camp Fire lo-resPS. Last year, Northern California was struck by the worst wildfire in the area’s history. Paradise, California was scoured from the map. Nearly 100 people died and thousands were left homeless. In order to raise money for the survivors, I’ve edited Tales for the Camp Fire: A Charity Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief, a collection of short stories by Northern Californian horror writers. The book came out last month. There will be more details in my newsletter — or you can order it directly from Amazon.

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