For a little over a year, I have been volunteering with Find A Grave, answering people's photo requests for cemeteries near here. I enjoy it a great deal and people are always very appreciative. I hope it, at least partially, repays the kindness of all the volunteers who have fulfilled my requests across the nation.
One of the first requests I received was for a cemetery in the city of Whittier that I had never, ever heard of and that was supposedly in the same neighborhood as my dentist's office. How could that be?
Long story short: Founders Memorial Park, aka Whittier Cemetery, was actually two adjacent cemeteries near Uptown Whittier that were abandoned by the 1930s. The earliest burials were from the early 1880s and continued until at least the 1930s (and possibly into the 1950s). In 1968, the city took over and eventually made them into a beautiful park of about 4 acres. Attempts were made to contact family members. Remaining headstones are now kept at the Whittier Museum. The museum website includes a brief story of the cemeteries and a listing of all the known burials. I had been driving by this park every six months and had no idea of its history!
Each cemetery is commemorated with a large, double-sided memorial. There are a few benches and some paved pathways. It was purposely kept simple and meditative. There are no picnic tables, no playgrounds, and no ball courts ... just lots of older trees and the very appropriate memorials.
The memorials feature large bronze plaques with the names of those who are buried at the site. Unfortunately, just a few days before my first visit to the site, vandals had defaced one side of the Mount Olive memorial and stolen the title plaque and 5 of the name plaques, probably for their metal value. In my September 2012 photo showing the defaced side, you can see how lovely the overall park is and you can make out the Broadway Cemetery memorial in the distance.
But driving by for my dentist's appointment in November 2012, something didn't look right from the road. I parked to investigate and was extremely saddened and very angry to see that the remainder of the plaques had been stolen and both memorials attacked ... for lack of another word. Here is what was left of the 4 sides of the 2 memorials:
I was so very upset. Last month, though, there was finally some good news! The city of Whittier has just made their budget for 2013-2014, and although it will require going into the reserves, repair of the Founder's Memorial Park memorials has been approved. The estimate is that repairs will cost $50,000 (boy, that seems low...) and insurance may cover some of it. The newspaper article did not say how or if the repairs will attempt to prevent such damage in the future....