Monthly Archives: December 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

The final photo challenge of the year is to sum everything up in pictures. I thought about using pictures of the cemeteries I had the joy of visiting this year, but I tend to do my cemetery visiting in fits and starts. I saw St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard, and the African Burial Ground Monument in the same glorious day in June, and Stratford, Canada’s Avondale Cemetery and Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery in the same week in August, then Los Angeles’ Westwood Village Memorial Park, Cambria’s Santa Rosa Churchyard, and Evergreen Cemetery in Santa Cruz in the course of my weeklong October road trip. The cemeteries I visited in between skew toward the San Francisco Bay Area, of course, since that’s where I’m based. I wasn’t sure such a collection would make a visually dynamic post.

Instead I chose a photo I liked from each month of this year’s blog. That allowed me to include Aoyama Cemetery, which I featured in March, and the Granary Burying Ground from Boston, which I discussed in May. Those are both lovely photos that I’m pleased to have taken.  Less beautiful photos, yet still good summaries of their cemeteries, are the ones in Angelus Rosedale, Coloma’s Pioneer Cemetery, and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  Those graveyards aren’t as lovely as some of the others, but their power — for me, anyway — lies in their rough edges.

Several of the photos come from other Weekly Photo Challenges. Jimi Hendrix’s monument was inspired by the prompt Inside. Florence, Italy’s Grim Reaper came from the prompt “Foreign”, and the snow-frosted Gethsemane scene from Flint, Michigan’s New Calvary Cemetery summed up Winter for me last January.

I did managed to work in a couple of this year’s explorations: St. Paul’s lovely hydrangeas in full purple bloom and the obelisk belonging to the Living Martyr, John Taylor, in Salt Lake City Cemetery, which I visited in March. Even my trip to Canada shows up in August, with the stone that reads “In Memory of Ekie.”

Of all the essays I wrote this year, all the graveyards I examined, the one I feel is most important is November’s piece on the US Marine Hospital Cemetery in my hometown. It’s not much of photo, but there’s not much left to see. The graveyard was lost, paved over, forgotten — and still isn’t easy to find — but it represents the history of this city in a way that its standing buildings often do not. That little patch of ground, full of unmarked graves, speaks volumes about why cemetery preservation is so crucial. Who will speak for the dead, if we do not? Who will protect them and see that they can rest?

Cemetery of the Week #84: National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, with Honolulu in the distance.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, with Honolulu in the distance. Vintage postcard.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Also called the Punchbowl Cemetery
2177 Puowaina Drive
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813-1729
Phone: (808) 532-3720
First modern burial: January 4, 1949
Size: 112 acres
Number of interments: approximately 34,000 servicemen and women
Open: September 30 to March 1, from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. March 2 to September 29, from 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. On Memorial Day, the cemetery is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The name “Punchbowl” comes from the shape of the crater in which the cemetery lies. The crater was formed 75,000 to 100,000 years ago when hot lava seeped through cracks in the old coral reefs. Its Hawaiian name, “Puowaina,” is most commonly translated as “Hill of Sacrifice.” The crater’s first known use was as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to their gods.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific from the rim, looking inward. Vintage postcard.

In the 1890s, a committee suggested the Punchbowl as a new cemetery for Honolulu’s burgeoning population. The idea was rejected because, among other reasons, the living didn’t like the idea of having a city of the dead above them. Fifty years later, Congress authorized $50,000 to establish a national cemetery in Honolulu. Hawaii’s governor offered the Punchbowl for the graveyard, but the money wouldn’t cover the work needed, so the project was deferred until after World War II.

By 1947, Congress pressured the military to create a permanent burial site for the remains of thousands of World War II servicemen temporarily buried on the island of Guam and throughout the Pacific theater. The Army reopened negotiations about the Punchbowl. Construction began in February 1948.

Magnolia trees in bloom at Eastertime, 1996

Magnolia trees in bloom at Eastertime, 1996

The remains of soldiers were disinterred from around the Pacific, including from Wake Island, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Burma, China, and the Japanese POW camps. These were transported to Hawaii for final burial. The first interments were made January 4, 1949. These included 776 casualties killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The cemetery opened to the public on July 19, 1949, with the burial of a civilian: war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Eventually, over 13,000 soldiers and sailors who gave their lives in World War II would be buried in the Punchbowl.

Vintage postcard of the Punchbowl Cemetery overlooking Diamondhead.

Vintage postcard of the Punchbowl Cemetery overlooking Diamondhead.

Originally, white wooden crosses and Stars of David marked graves at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Despite the Army’s intention that these monuments would be only temporary, people complained when they were replaced by flat granite markers in 1951. It does the graveyard more of a mid-century lawn cemetery aspect, rather than the upright military monuments seen in Arlington and other American military burial grounds.

Among the people commemorated there are Hawaiian astronaut Elison Onizuka, who died about the Challenger space shuttle and tattoo legend Norman Collins, known as “Sailor Jerry.” At this point, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is only open to cremated remains. Casketed remains are accepted for burial only in the graves of family members already interred there.

From the bus, the Honolulu Memorial,  with the Courts of the Missing

From the bus: the Honolulu Memorial, with the Courts of the Missing which name those lost, missing, or buried at sea during World War II.

Nearly five million people visit the Punchbowl Cemetery each year. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.  There are several options for exploring the cemetery:  The American Legion offers free walking tours of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Call (808) 946-6383 for information.  Discover Hawaii Tours does a narrated drive-through of the cemetery, but their buses are not allowed to stop. You can find more information about their tours here.

ETA: There’s a big push to identify the unknowns buried in the Punchbowl after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Here is more information.

Useful links:

The Department of Veterans Affairs site for the National Cemetery of the Pacific

Photos of the cemetery

Map and video of the cemetery

GPS information on

Other Hawaiian cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:

Seamen’s Cemetery in Lahaina, Maui

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Oahu

Kawaiaha’o Churchyard, Honolulu, Oahu

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

The view across the lake in Woodlawn

The view across the lake in Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit

I’ve been away from this blog for too long.  I took November off to do Nanowrimo, which was successful for me this year, although blasting through a 50,000-word novel in 30 days didn’t leave me much brain power for anything else.  My brain was too full of space ships and time travel to think coherently about cemeteries and the past.  It’s time to get back up on the horse, as they say.

The photo prompt for this week is Reflections.  Of course, I have a morbid spin to put on that subject…

Hollywood Forever is quintessentially Southern California.

Hollywood Forever is quintessentially Southern California.

I love the man-made bodies of water in the old garden cemeteries, even as I recognize that they’re difficult to maintain.  This pond in Detroit, pictured above, was an alarming shade of green.  Lakes draw wildlife from snapping turtles to Canadian geese that might not welcome visitors.  Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn filled in one of their lakes fairly early in their history so they could build a chapel atop it.

In a cemetery in Northern California this summer, I saw warnings posted that the maintenance crew would dump out any flower arrangements with standing water in order to prevent mosquitos from breeding and spreading West Nile Virus.  I’m not sure how Hollywood Forever keeps their ponds so lovely and free of dangerous critters.

Mary Baker Eddy001One of my favorite cemetery vistas is looking across the pond in Mount Auburn at Mary Baker Eddy’s monument.  There’s something so peaceful about the lovely Grecian Revival temple reflecting in the unruffled water.  For me, there’s a sense of the afterworld in the vista, tranquil and welcoming beyond the turmoil of this world.