Monthly Archives: July 2012

A Pocket Guide to London’s Cemeteries

London's CemeteriesLondon’s Cemeteries by Darren Beach

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite its pocket size, this is more of an armchair travel book than a take-along guide to cemeteries. It only includes maps to the largest graveyards and most cemeteries rate only a page or two to cover their history, architecture, and celebrity graves. That being said, it is still a worthy addition to your cemetery library.

It’s great fun. The author describes the “tree that killed Marc Bolan” outside Barnes Common Cemetery. He encourages that respects be paid at the most tenuous celebrities. He points out bomb damage from World War II and even, at one point, from a bomb dropped by a zeppelin. He gushes when a cemetery is particularly beautiful and snipes when one isn’t up to standard. He seems to have actually visited each of the 50 cemeteries listed herein. He is honest in his assessments: some cemeteries “could have been beautiful,” some deserve visits only by completists, others suffer from “anodyne” (a word he uses repeatedly) chapels or crematory rose gardens.

Of course, the book could have more photographs. Not every cemetery gets one, but some of those includes are spectacular. My favorite is of the statue of an aviator killed in 1938 and buried in Eltham Cemetery. As the author points out, he looks he’s wearing a “post-apocalyptic anti-radioactivity suit.” I wouldn’t have known about him without this book.

I did find a few errors, which of course call into question all the stuff I don’t know cold. For instance, in the entry on Old Mortlake Cemetery, the author states in an aside that Charles Dickens is buried in Highgate West. Dickens is buried at Westminster Abbey, against his wishes. His family lies at Highgate. Later, in the entry on Greenwich Cemetery, Beach compares its views of London to the views of Paris from Montmartre’s Pere Lachaise. I’m not even sure which Parisian cemetery he means here (it might be Montmartre itself or St. Denis), but Pere Lachaise is in the east of Paris and Montmartre is in the north. He’s mixing metaphors.

Even so, I give this book four stars. It’s added a bunch of cemeteries to my must-see list. I will just be careful to cross-reference the author’s enthusiasm with other books on London cemeteries before I take what he writes as gospel.

Hopefully, its errors have been corrected in the 2019 edition, which you can pick up at Amazon: London’s Cemeteries.

London cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #2: Highgate Cemetery in London, England

Cemetery of the Week #63: Westminster Abbey, London, England

Cemetery of the Week #70: Kensal Green Cemetery, London, England

Cemetery of the Week #71: Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, England

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Purple

Child’s grave, Pescadero, California

Last July, I took my daughter half an hour away from home for a week of pony camp.  She stayed with my friend Kristin’s family, but it was as long as she’d ever been away from home before.

I dropped her off at the ranch Monday morning, waved goodbye with a lump in my throat, and went off to a cafe to research the cemetery I’d heard about farther south, down in Pescadero, California.  Kristin said she’d tried to find the grave of that little girl who died in a plane crash there, without any luck.

After a little poking around on the internet, I learned that buried in Pescadero was Jessica Dubroff, the 7-year-old who died in 1996 while trying to become the youngest person ever to fly across the US.  While trying to keep up with their media commitments, her flight instructor had taken off in a storm over Wyoming and couldn’t keep the plane aloft. Everyone onboard was killed.

Like Kristin, I looked and looked around the little graveyard, without being sure I’d found Jessica’s monument.  There was a strange cement monument that reminded me of a porthole in a ship or a plane’s window, but I didn’t see Jessica’s name on it.

According to Findagrave, this is Jessica Dubroff’s monument.

While I searched, the little stone dedicated to Nellie spoke to me more clearly.  Surrounded by Spanish lavender, which doesn’t mind California’s long dry summers, the white marble stone was decorated with a lamb, the symbol of innocence that often marked Victorian children’s graves.  Little Nellie had been gone a long time, but evidently she wasn’t forgotten.

Before I became a mother, I never understood the depth of pain that could be summarized by a child’s headstone.  After I struggled through my pregnancy — facing both my own death and that of my daughter — I began to understand what it meant to have something entirely irreplaceable.  I wondered if I could survive if she died.  I wondered if I could ever let her out of my sight.

Seven years later, I knew — even if she didn’t — that pony camp was dangerous.  She could fall from her mount and break her collarbone, as my father had.  She could be thrown off and strike her head.  Perhaps I had already said goodbye to her for the last time.

Nellie’s stone was one more reminder that life is fragile, and precious, and every moment together should be savored.  I hung around the California coast until pony camp got out for the day, so I could snatch a few more moments with my daughter.  She never knew why I hugged her so tightly.

A Quickie Guide to the Cemeteries of Seattle

Cemeteries of Seattle (Images of America (Arcadia Publishing))Cemeteries of Seattle (Images of America) by Robin Shannon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good addition to the Images of America graveyard books. As is typical, the text is circular and no doubt leaves much out, but if it inspires a true guide (with color pictures!) to Seattle’s lovely Lake View Cemetery, then it will have done its job.

It did guide my own visits to the graves of Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Lee, despite the typo in the listing of Hendrix’s final resting place. Lucky for me, there is no Evergreen Cemetery in Renton, Washington.

The author did a good job with the Seattle pioneers buried in Lake View, including both photos of the people and of their tombstones.  Some cemetery books actually forget to show you what you’re looking for.

You can inspire your own exploration of Seattle’s permanent residents by getting your own copy at Amazon: Cemeteries of Seattle (Images of America: Washington).

Cemeteries of Seattle on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #49: Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton, Washington

Cemetery of the Week #69: Lake View Cemetery, Seattle, Washington

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Cemetery of the Week #69: Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery

Lake View's view of the lakeLake View Cemetery
1554 15th Avenue E
Seattle, Washington 98112
Telephone: (206) 322-1582
Email: office@lakeviewcemeteryassociation.com
Founded: October 16, 1872
Size: 40 acres
Number of interments: 17,000 or more
Open: 9 a.m. to dusk daily (4:15 in winter, 6 p.m. in spring, 8 p.m. in summer)

As opposed to Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery, which looks out onto Lake Erie, Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery looks down from Capitol Hill toward Lake Union, Portage Bay, and Lake Washington.

Established as Seattle’s Masonic Cemetery in 1872, the cemetery was renamed in 1890. It lies adjacent to Volunteer Park, which served as Washelli Cemetery until Leigh Hunt, editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, demanded that the bodies lying there be moved so that the area could be enjoyed by the living. Some of these people had already been moved once before, when the city took over an original pioneer graveyard to make Denny Park.

The Denny family plot

Among those buried in Lake View Cemetery is Princess Angeline, the eldest daughter of Chief Sealth who gave his name to Seattle. Angeline’s given name was Kikisoblu, but after her conversion to Christianity, she was given a new name because she was “too handsome a woman to carry a name like that.”

At the crest of the hill rest four generations of the Denny family. Arthur Armstrong Denny and his wife Mary Boren Denny are credited with founding Seattle. Also in Lake View are Washington’s first governor (Elisha P. Ferry), Seattle’s first mayor (John Leary), Seattle’s first banker (Dexter Horton), and Seattle’s first shopkeeper (Dr. David Swinson Maynard, who declared his first wife dead so he could marry his second. Things turned awkward when wife #1 moved in with them, claiming half of Maynard’s land).

In the northeast corner stands the Nisei War Memorial Monument, dedicated in 1949 to Japanese Americans who volunteered to fight in World War II as a way to escape internment camps like the one in Puyallup, Washington.

Some of Lake View’s most interesting monuments draw from a wide variety of ethnic traditions, from Japanese, to Chinese, to Native American. One of my favorites was this one:

Lake View’s most famous permanent resident is Bruce Lee, who died in 1973 at the young age of 32 from cerebral edema caused by a bad reaction to a headache tablet. Beside him lies is son Brandon, who perished 20 years later at the age of 28, after being shot with an improperly loaded gun on the set of the original The Crow movie.

Bruce and Brandon Lee

Bruce’s large red granite slab identifies him as the founder of Jeet Kune Do (the Way of the Intercepting Fist), but his fans adore him for his movies: Enter the Dragon, Fists of Fury, and for upstaging the Green Hornet when he played Kato in the 1960s TV series. San Francisco-born Bruce Lee opened martial arts studios in Oakland, California and in Los Angeles, where he taught Steve McQueen and James Coburn, both of whom served as his pallbearers.

Brandon Lee’s monument is even more striking. Made of polished black granite, it has a swooping protuberance as if a shrouded figure is stepping clear of the stone. It includes a long epitaph which says in part: “How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems so limitless.”

Flowers, coins, pebbles, and other tributes often surround both graves, which lie just beneath the crest of the hill facing the water.

Useful Links:
Lake View Cemetery homepage

A History of the Capitol Hill neighborhood

More information about the removable of graves from the Washelli Cemetery

Famous gravesites in Seattle

More information about Princess Angeline

Haunted Lake View Cemetery‘s report on Princess Angeline

GPS coordinates from CemeteryRegistry.us

Other Seattle links on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #49:  Greenwood Memorial Park

My visit to Greenwood Memorial Park to see Jimi Hendrix

My review of Cemeteries of Seattle (Images of America)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Inside Jimi Hendrix’s monument, Greenwood Cemetery

The photo prompt for this week is another one that’s tough to illustrate in a cemetery.  I want to write about Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery for tomorrow’s Cemetery of the Week, so I’ll stick close geographically, if not in the same immediate grounds.

During my trip to Washington in February 2009, I wanted to visit Hendrix’s grave because his guitar-playing was so influential for my husband.  We were staying with two musician friends in Seattle, so they were kind enough to chauffer me out to Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton.  The weather was chilly and gray, but the rain held off while we poked around.

My host William chuckled about the conversation he’d face at work on the Monday after our visit. “Oh, what did you do this weekend?” he’d be asked.  “Oh, nothing,” he’d say.  “Just hung out in some cemeteries.”

I didn’t immediately recognize that some people might find such a thing unusual.  I’ve been going to graveyards so long that it’s second nature.  I always seek out graveyards when I travel.  Even at home, I may spend as much time in graveyards as I do in the park.  If I have some time on my own to kill, I often find the closest graveyard to explore.

I wasn’t sure if I should apologize to William, but he just laughed at me.  “I know how you are,” he said.  “It’s no problem.”

At least my hobby gets me outside.