One of my favorite duties at the funeral home is managing our participation in the local Everett Artwalk. I volunteer to assist interested newcomers in participating with the other businesses as well as organizing our artist and performers.
To date one of my favorite performers is Miss Hajera. In 2017 she participated in several Artwalks with henna body painting and gave her grand finale on winter solstice with a 🔥 fire dance in the parking lot.
Volunteer drummers began and set the stage as she read a blessing and began to spin balls of live hot flames. The weather was cool and the sun had set. It’s was a spectacular show; the kind that inspires you to try a new hobby you would have never imagined.
This pioneer cemetery is one of a select few in the United States that resides in a national park. Managed by the 128 American Legion, there are 400 souls buried here.
Many of the people laid to rest were pioneers in the development of Grand Canyon National Park and have many trails named after them. What’s interesting about this cemetery is the headstones. Most of them are made of the local rock with placards mounted to them.
Many of the headstones also have an inscription as to who the person was and their role in the development of the park. I find this odd since other cemeteries do not have these types of inscriptions. I wonder if at some point, the cemetery was abandoned with broken or missing headstones?
From what I’ve found on the American Legion website, in the 1950s there were very few headstone markers and more mounds of ponderosa pinecones and needles that made up the grave sites.
Renovations to the grounds also resulted in new markers on some of the headstones.
Another uniqueness to these graves is that there is a headstone and a footstone.
The cemetery also had a few wooden headstones, which handle the dry/hot weather compared to other sites in the pacific northwest where they decompose quicker.
The Pioneer Cemetery is located near the Shrine of the Ages Church. As of July 2017, this pioneer cemetery is closed to new burials due to lack of space.
Before this closure, you would have had to lived at the canyon for at least three years, be a family member of someone already interred or have made a “significant contribution” to the Canyon in some way to be buried in this cemetery.
John Hance – Was the first non-indigenous resident of the Grand Canyon and also the first person buried in the cemetery.
There is a headstone for William Wallace Bass who helped develop the stage line in the area. Further research has identified this headstone as a monument because in 1933 Bass was cremated in Phoenix AZ and then his ashes were scattered by plane over Holy Grail Temple in the Grand Canyon.
Pete Berry – One of the only miners that had a few paying copper mines in the Grand Canyon. His most successful copper mine was called Grandview or Last Chance mine. After 1907, the mine was acquired by William Randolph Hearst who sold it to the national park service in 1940. In 2009 the mines were gated.
Twenty-nine unidentified victims were interred in four coffins here from the June 30th, 1956 United/TWA Grand Canyon crash. At the time this event, it was sited as the worst disaster on record and prompted the formation of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
Waited all summer to get outside in this area up North with Ms. M! We camped at a deluxe cabin on the Puget Sound water front. No joke, haha!
The shuttle van driver thought we were the next guest speaker because this cabin had a dedicated bathroom with shower separate from the sleeping quarters yet, still attached to the cabin. We hiked, skipped rocks on the water annnnnd … Still made sure to visit a local cemetery on our homeward bound trek.
My favorite part? My favorite part was learning that cattails are eatable, at least some parts, getting a cabin right behind the gift shop, seeing the boathouse where they have historic and group activity events, oh!!! And the café – it’s so granola.
Some of the staff are retired soccer mom’s and some are 20s aged with dreadlocks. All of them were talking about soil related topics. Yes, I was dropping as I waited for Ms. M to arrive for breakfast. The smells I liked most were the wet tree moss, the salty beach front air, musty cabin and cafe fresh-herb aroma.
At the cemetery my impression was more of a floating quandary of questions. Wondering about the cemetery sextants and what their experiences on-site had been. I imagined the burials and ceremonies that had taken place since before I was even a thought in anyone’s mind. It was, as it is with these thoughts, awe inspiring and joy provoking.
At the cemetery my impression was more of a floating quandary of questions. Wondering about the cemetery sextants and what their experiences on-site had been.
I imagined the burials and ceremonies that had taken place since before I was even a thought in anyone’s mind. It was, as it is with these thoughts, awe inspiring and joy provoking.
As a Funeral Director I’ve grown accustomed to odd and entertaining reactions from people when asked simple conversation starters like, “So what do you do for work?”
One of the challenges we face is connecting with the living before they need mortuary help. It’s not a topic most around me easily enter. It’s not a topic that seems, “normal.”
In my world view it is normal. Not only is it normal, it’s part of my weekly work life. Coordinating the details and working as a liaison for the deceased and their Next-Of-Kin is the essence of my function.
When I was younger I definitely didn’t meet the customer’s expectation of what a Funeral Director looks like. Some customers still assume they will be meeting with a thin, tall, gaunt old man and seem a bit confused until introductions are complete. It all adds to the unique experience.
Connecting with the living can be a challenge in my industry. One way I’ve been bringing the gap in this arena is by hosting events at the Funeral Home.
With Paint Night I was able to take my background in visual arts and lead a class during a paint-and-sip social. The whole event took about 2 hours for the guests and everyone had so much fun, at a funeral home even.
Several of the guests were comfortable enough to venture into the topic of death and ask questions without a direct need for a Funeral Director. In this stress free zone a real connection can be made sans the sorrow.
Such a positive first exposure to this experience left me encouraged and happy to facilitate more Paint Night events. Public requests are welcomed.
This might be a great place to start our origin story.
September 23rd, 2017. A road trip to Portland, Oregon from Seattle, Washington.
Just us girls in Michelle’s little Fiat, precious escape from work and any excuse to get out of town for my birthday. Dry and sunny weather made for easy traveling outside the cities
Michelle describes herself as a, “gypsy punk, exploring quite places.” I have been lucky to be her exploring buddy on many a trip.
Her talent of remembering history and stories of the places and people has long been something I admire about her.
We arrived at Wilhelm Portland Memorial in the early afternoon and proceeded to explore the historic building.
Founded in 1901, Wilhelm Portland Memorial is the “largest and oldest indoor cemetery west of the Mississippi.” There is a population of 90,000 people laid to rest within the 10 floors at Wilhelm.
The mausoleum used to be open to the public, but became private in the ‘00s after a rash of copper thefts. Thieves were stealing name placards, flower sconces and other items off the property.
Not only is this indoor cemetery the biggest mausoleum I have seen, in person to date, it is also where Michelle has a relative interred and thus our visit. The 70s couches, copper flower trash cans and hand painted (1000s of square feet! HUGE!) mural are weaved together with polished marble, beautiful fountains and spiral staircases.
We ended our self guided exploratory tour at her relatives marker. This felt like the perfect place to leave my birthday rose that I had with me from the second date with Matt…. that I had been toting around with me for 2 days, across 2 states and giddily sniffing it’s soft fragrance while road tripping.
FUN FACT: Wilhelm Portland Memorial houses one of two true marble replicas of Michelangelo’s Pieta weighing 9000 pounds. The marble comes from the same quarry as the original!