The First Volume about Mare Island Cemetery

mare island book001Mare Island Cemetery
by Peggy O’Drain, Joyce Giles, and Tony W. Liang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This spiral-bound sheaf of papers was assembled by docents at the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation, who oversee the old Naval shipyard in Vallejo, California. The book is clearly the work of hours and hours of research about the people buried in the officers’ section of the Mare Island Cemetery — which was not limited to officers or men, but includes women, children, civilian employees of the shipyard, as well as an “ant-eating bear.”

The text is quoted from local newspapers, oral histories, and the shipyard records. At times this makes for repetitive reading; other times I wished for more information. Overall, though, the book is fascinating reading and reveals the world of the shipyard, where every military ship that entered the Golden Gate had to register, regardless of its country of origin.

Peggy O’Drain continues to give tours at Mare Island and is in the process of finishing another book about the remainder of the cemetery. She is the chief researcher on this project. Joyce Giles, who organizes the group tours and oversees the Mare Island Shipyard Museum, typed everything up and Tony Liang provided the design.

My only disappointment with the book is the lack of illustrations. There are some color photos of the Tiffany memorial windows from the island’s chapel. There are some photos of headstones, but most entries do not have them. Only a few portraits or photos of life on the island appear. If the book were printed double-sided, photos could be added without making it much larger.

Still, as a resource on a cemetery that had very little documentation, this is a wonderful book.  It is available from the Mare Island Artifacts Museum or the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation.

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