Cemeteries connect us quietly, sometimes surprisingly, to the past.
In Orange County, there are Civil War veterans who lie in Santa Ana Cemetery. In the adjoining Fairhaven Memorial Park, World War II heroine Corrie ten Boom and guitar legend Clarence Leo Fender rest. The county has become the final resting place for two presidents--one American, one Cambodian.
The cemeteries, with their calm certainty, can be soothing places for walks, for reflection, for touching history. While the majority of those buried left their marks on the world in modest, nonpublic ways, some of those in Orange County’s cemeteries have left public legacies of perseverance, creativity and courage.
Here are some of them:
Santa Ana Cemetery is heavily shaded with Canary Island date palms, creating a near-canopy in parts.
Established in 1870, Santa Ana Cemetery is one of Orange County’s oldest and testimony to the nation’s westward expansion and Civil War days. There, among elaborate granite and marble markers, simple white domes indicate the final resting places of nearly 500 veterans of the war between the states. Gilded stars posted in the ground designate soldiers who served in the prewar National Army of the Republic. The park’s southern entrance is guarded by a monument topped with a large bronze eagle, “To the Unknown Dead of the Civil War.”
Fairhaven Memorial Park’s stone mausoleums, incorporating marble and stained glass, commemorate the dead of many of the area’s prominent and wealthy families. Large, heavily carved, moss-covered monuments tower over flat headstones. The park’s focal point is the stone chapel near the north gate whose architecture is modeled after England’s Gothic Waverley Church.
Fairhaven’s prized tree collection, including many rare and exotic varieties, enabled the park to become an arboretum in 1993.
Corrie ten Boom, whose Christian family sheltered Jews in Holland during the Nazi occupation, died in 1983 and is buried at Fairhaven. After the war, she devoted her life to spreading the Gospel around the world, even to the Germans, who had killed most of her family. Her epitaph, “Jesus Is Victor,” is the same phrase that had hung over her fireplace in Holland.
Ten Boom’s near neighbor at Fairhaven, Clarence Leo Fender, perfected the electric guitar in the 1950s. Born in 1909 in a rural area between Fullerton and Anaheim, Fender worked in a radio repair shop before he started making guitars. His Stratocaster struck a chord with music lovers that has reverberated around the world--it is the most used and copied electric guitar in the world. Fender, who died in 1991, didn’t play.
Entombed in Fairhaven’s mausoleum is aviation pioneer Glenn Martin, who opened one of the country’s first airplane factories in 1909, later making planes to order for the U.S. Armed Forces. Martin-Marietta Aircraft on the East Coast still designs and manufactures aircraft after the Martin tradition.
W.T. Grace, the founding force behind Helen Grace Chocolates, is also buried at Fairhaven. Grace opened his candy store on his wife Helen’s birthday in 1944 and named the business after her.
Aviator Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan was buried here in December. Born in 1907 and orphaned at age 15, Corrigan learned to fly and began working as an airplane mechanic before he was 20. In 1927 he helped Charles Lindbergh build The Spirit of St. Louis. In 1938 Corrigan became a celebrity by “accidentally” flying his small, 175-horsepower airplane from New York across the Atlantic to Ireland, rather than to Los Angeles as he was authorized to do. Throughout his life, Corrigan upheld the story of a faulty compass being the reason for having flown in the record-setting wrong direction.
Loma Vista Memorial Park in Fullerton was founded in 1914. Like a number of other cemeteries, its older areas are distinguished by large headstones and mature trees, the newer ones by expanses of lawn and flat-to-the-ground markers.
Within the newer part of Loma Vista is a walled Vietnamese Buddhist section containing 900 plots. In the center of the burial area, which is surrounded by a low white wall, is a roofed shrine, built in 1981. The shrine, of white marble with gold trim, contains a statue of Buddha. The plots are oriented with the foot of the graves facing east, a burial custom meant to allow the spirit of the deceased to speed more quickly to be with Buddha.
In the older Rose Lawn area of the cemetery--behind an old white Spanish-style building--is the grave of Lon Nol, former Cambodian president. Gen. Lon Nol took command of Cambodia in 1970, allowing a brief invasion by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. After his regime fell to the Communists in 1975, he fled to the United States. He died in Fullerton in 1985.
Also buried at Loma Vista, in the Coronita Lawn area, are Walter and Cordelia Knott, berry farm and amusement park pioneers. After Walter developed his well-known boysenberry, Cordelia became an important part of the business by canning it, jamming it and baking it, to the delight of locals and visitors alike. Cordelia died in 1974, Walter in 1981.
British novelist Cecil Scott Forester, who died in 1966, is also interred at Loma Vista. His affinity for adventure was played out in such renowned works as “The African Queen” (1935) and the Horatio Hornblower series (beginning in 1937).
Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach is the final resting place of screen legend John Wayne, who in his decades-long career starred in 150 films and appeared in scores of others. Wayne, who died in 1979, lived the last 14 years in a bay-front home in Newport Beach.
Pacific View, which features Spanish-style architecture, has a commanding view of not only the ocean, but also a large reservoir.
And, though not planned, it is possible from Wayne’s grave to see the airport that bears his name.
Forest Lawn in Cypress has at its entrance Colonial-style administrative buildings and mausoleum. But in keeping with the Forest Lawn group’s tradition, the rest of the park features raised lawns and original and replica statuary, including a life-size copy of Michelangelo’s David.
Forest Lawn is the resting place of singer-songwriter Karen Carpenter, who died in 1983 from complications of anorexia nervosa. Carpenter’s death spurred public interest in the eating disorder, and many clinics now specialize in treating it.
Westminster Memorial Park Cemetery in Westminster was established in the early 1920s--its buildings are low and geometric in the spirit of modern architecture. Flagstone facades, sharp angles and abstract stained glass characterize most of the facilities.
The grounds contain reproductions of a number of well-known statues, including the Winged Victory of Samothrace.
Westminster houses the remains of Eddie Martin, founder of what is now John Wayne Airport and an important player in aviation history. A dirt runway in the 1920s, Martin Airport catered to Howard Hughes and other young flying enthusiasts. Martin Aviation, a private terminal adjacent to John Wayne, is all that remains of Martin’s original facility.
The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, with its garden-like plantings and fountains, is the site of the graves of President Nixon and his wife, Pat, who preceded him in death. Near the modest house where Nixon was born, the two graves lie side by side.
At Nixon’s funeral on April 27, 1994, were 8,000 invited guests--among them the five presidents who succeeded him--Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton. Another 34,000 paid their respects or stood outside; millions more watched the ceremony on television.
Ascension Cemetery, a private Roman Catholic cemetery in Lake Forest, is the burial site of Nicole Brown Simpson. Her slaying and the subsequent trial and acquittal last year of ex-husband O.J. Simpson created tremendous public interest in her life.
From the beginning, a combination of mourners and the curious have sought out her grave site. They have left flowers, notes and teddy bears. To discourage sightseers, her family waited six months to place a marker on her grave and asked that cemetery officials not tell strangers where it was. But the visitors have come anyway, many saying they feel a special kinship with her. Her simple headstone is inscribed:
Nicole Brown Simpson
Always in Our Hearts