Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery

Been in business since 1881. No complaints so far.







Yes, this last one baffled us; and while I haven't figured out how/why he was murdered (nothing on google), I think I've got a handle on the last line: "Whose idea was this anyway," was probably something Matthew said whenever things went wrong. He would have been 42 this year.

52 comments:

  1. Perhaps Mathew was murdered elsewhere, and brought home for his final resting place...interesting that they felt the need to specify murder on the tombstone...sad too...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love cemetaries! The further east you go in this country the better and older they are.

    that last one is very odd. I know it's not him, but Matthew Van Winkle is also the real name of "Vanilla Ice." I have no idea why I know that...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, what unusual statements. The next-to last one was sweet - the last one, haunting.

    Why does the macabre drive us to search?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Rarely do they have problems with cemetaries, right?

    I bought my plot in the one over the hill from my house before my back surgery in January. (That was my superstitious insurance that I'd not die on the table.) That one dates back to around 1800, when white people braved the Indians to settle this area. I'm pretty sure there are scalped people in it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I like the handmade tombstone, but can't say a lot of effort went into it...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, that last stone. I think you're right about the tag line.

    Wonderful photos, too. Here and on Patch.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow... putting "murder" on a headstone like that. Kinda freaks Miss J out. Imagine how they feel.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I know, this one nags at me. My best guess is that Matthew died as a result of extreme negligance, maybe a traffic accident, or some medical procedure gone wrong. And though the courts wouldn't call it murder, the parents want you to know they consider it such and will never forgive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew matt and his sister Sarah. He was murdered inhic and his body was dump off the shoulder of i10 ,He was found weeks later.

      Delete
  9. Those gravestones don't always give it up;) Probably a good thing too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I once gave a priceless gift as the result of visiting a cemetery. I was in Manila for a week in 2004 and was asked by a friend to go to the American Military cemetery there and find her uncle's grave. Miles Glidden was an Marine Corps pilot and member of the famed Black Sheep Squadron. He died in a crash in the Solomon Islands during WWII and eventually buried in the Manila Cemetery. This cemetery has the largest number of US soldiers of any military cemetery outside the US. Miles was the older brother of my friend's father who was 14 at the time of his death and heavily impacted by the loss of his older brother. No one from the family had ever visited or even knew for sure if he was there.

    Manila is a dirty, overcrowded, polluted city. I arrived at the cemetery late in the afternoon to find a beautiful oasis. The grass looked like a putting green with row upon row of marble crosses and Stars of David. I checked into the office and said who I was looking for. A very nice Filipina grabbed a bucket and we got in a golf cart and went to Miles' grave. She got down on her knees, rubbed wet sand into the etching of his name, branch, etc. and wiped the excess away with a paint brush. The result was that you could clearly read and photography the lettering. Without it, the etching into white marble does not photograph well. The women left allowing me to remain alone with my thoughts at the grave of someone I'd heard about for 35 years.

    After taking a lot of photos and spending over an hour at this solemn place, I went back to my hotel and sent a lengthy e-mail describing my experience to my friend. I also sent her copies of all the photos. The photos and e-mail were distributed widely to family and friends.

    It was an honor and privilege for me to represent the family at the grave of Miles Glidden and share my experience with them. I've since had the opportunity to visit some of the cemeteries where Americans are buried in the Normandy area of France. It is a moving experience to visit the final resting place of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives on foreign soil. It makes one appreciate and better understand the price our country has paid to maintain freedom throughout the world. It is something every American should experience once in their life.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh you do really need to do a Mary Gilbert tour of Père Lachaise with us. Girl you'd have a ball. I've a photo I can't decide If I can post . I might be goaded into it! :)


    Now these you've chosen are thought provoking. Since when did you ever post anything that wasn't. The last one got me. Murder. The ultimate heart ripper. May they all rest in peace.
    V

    ReplyDelete
  12. I like that tree between bars in the second photo.

    Add me to the list of those who've never seen murder etched on a tombstone.

    There's a good poet named Nance Van Winckle, but I don't think she's from California.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've always like cemetaries. Such interesting places. That last one was tragic.

    ...although, from the 'residents' perspective, they're likely all tragic.

    Adieu,
    Carolynn

    ReplyDelete
  14. I wonder if the Sierra Madre Library would have anything on the Van Wickel murder? And what about the gravestone with the home-made lettering? The person who scratched it out seems to be barely literate. My mind's inventing all kinds of back stories.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dbdubya, that's a very moving story. I always blubber at war cemeteries where soldiers have died in a foreign land. The one at the Bridge on the River Kwai was full of young men from many countries who died building the Burma Railroad. As the mother of a son whom I love dearly, I can't imagine what it would be like to lose him in a distant war.

    ReplyDelete
  16. DB, what a story; you made me see it. I'm sure that gave the family a measure of comfort or resolution; an answer to the if and where.

    Burying the one you love is probably the ultimate metaphor. When my dad died, he had paid and left instructions for how it should be done. And it was very spare. He'd hate to know we didn't respect his wishes at all. We couldn't let him leave without pillows and blanket and a respectable house; and he has a marker made of stone that came from Norway. Sorry Dad, you lost this argument.

    ReplyDelete
  17. something about this Van Wickle thing is tickling my memory...but am more than a little fuzzy at the moment (had surgery yesterday).

    Something about a car accident keeps coming to me...but don't quote me.

    Time to do some Star News search for Mar 1986? He'd have been a senior in high school.

    The handmade stone is tough to read, but probably important to those who did it. After having done a lot of grave searching, I implore people to have the engraving done WELL and deep so it will be readable for eons.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I lost my dad two years ago this coming January. He was cremated and placed with my mother's parents in a four-seater crypt in a mausoleum in Forest Lawn Glendale. My mother will join him when her time comes. I have many relatives in the same building and am familiar with it. About one year ago there was a noticeable increase in security in the building. You have to be buzzed in by security after stating your business and who you are visiting. I've since learned that the same mausoleum is the final resting place for Michael Jackson.

    If my father hadn't been cremated, he'd be turning over in his grave with the knowledge that he is sharing eternity with Michael Jackson.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I was moved by how many people in that cemetery died young. But yeah, I googled Matt, too. Didn't find a thing.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Very interesting about Matthew Van Wickle. Sounds like a story someone could dig into. It hasn't been that long ago. Some people must remember. As you suggest, maybe the "Whose Idea Was This Anyway," is something he used to say, but maybe it refers to the event that caused his death - like some kind of crazy teenage escapade that ended badly. I have to give someone credit for that tombstone.

    There are other Van Wickles in that cemetery, including Cynthia Rene Van Wickle, who died in 1978 at age 11. And an infant, Jody LaLone Van Wickle who died in 1960.

    My mother's parents are buried in a Jewish cemetery just outside of San Francisco. Wyatt Earp happens to be buried there; he lived with a Jewish woman. I went there a few years ago and the people said, "Are you here to see Wyatt Earp?" I said, "No, I'm here to see my grandparents."

    I used to go to the cemetery with my dad when I was a kid. He would do a funeral or tombstone unveiling and I would go along for the ride and entertain myself. I was freaked out by the mausoleums. Seemed strange that the dead would be in a building instead of the ground. I made cemeteries, including mausoleums, with my toy blocks after that. I guess I was working things out.

    Excellent piece of writing, DBW.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was killed after going missing for over a week. He was kidnapped/carjacked in the Arcadia mall parking lot by a parolee. He was shot in the car, they think trying to fight back, and dumped on the side of the freeway. He was a senior at Arcadia and good friend at the time. His grandparents saw his vehicle driving down the freeway some time later and alerted authorities who were able to arrest the offender who had kept the car in his possession.

      Delete
    2. This is all correct and yes the phase at the end was something he said to us with a little more behind it. the day we found out what happened haunts all of us to this day.

      Delete
  21. I have problems with mausoleums too Mr E...actually, I don't like the idea of a casket, embalming, etc...I believe in dust to dust, ashes to ashes...I'd prefer cremation or a pine box with no embalming...I want to go back to the earth, I don't want my bones hanging around waiting for some archaeologist to dig me up and try to figure out who and why I was...

    I also googled Mathew...checked the Star News, and the LA Times...to no avail...I'm curious and sad for him and his family...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Well of course his murder was your sorrow. That is perhaps the oddest epitaph I've ever ready.

    ReplyDelete
  23. My dad had a friend who used to write down jokes on 3 x 5 cards. That's what he was known for. My dad went to visit him when he was in the hospital dying of cancer. He said he'd come up with what he wanted on his tombstone. Don't know if his family actually went through with it, but here's what he proposed:

    "Here in the ground more dead than alive, is a man who has written his last 3 x 5."

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oh, the lady's not for burning. And I don't want to be shark bait. Au naturel and pine box, please.

    (You would think Matthew's story would be easier to find. I'm going to see if I still have some friends left at the LA Times Research library. If there still is a LAT research library.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I like wandering through cemetaries. They're so peaceful. Saw some really old head stones in England.

    I've never seen "murder" on a tombstone. It gave me a wierd feeling. His death became too personal.

    Finally saw your comment on "Old Friends" about the photographer.
    So --- where's the link you promised?

    ReplyDelete
  26. There's a listing for "Matthew Frederick Vanwickle" in California Death Records. Born 06/19/1968 in California, died in Los Angeles 03/27/1986. I can't find much else even with the spelling variation.

    I love the photos. Great post, as usual. dbdubya's story got me teary.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Now, you don't actually know if there are no complaints, do you? And, hopefully, you won't be finding out for a very long time. BOO!

    ReplyDelete
  28. i hear they line up for this joint They line up so long they just pass out and get buried on the spot.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Interesting what you said, Pierre, about his death becoming too personal when we see the word "murder." There may be other murder victims in the cemetery, but we don't know. Usually the cause of death is not on the tombstone. It feels like it's none of our business, perhaps.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Oh--and I would LOVE to be dug up by an archaeologist!

    ReplyDelete
  31. We could have a whole discussion about putting causes of death on tombstones. "Medical Malpractice" "The Certificate Says Myocardial Infarction but It was Really My Wife Carrying on with Her Boss"

    Then there could be an argument on the stone between friends and relatives:

    "Hit By a Drunk Driver"

    "No, Drunk Himself and Ran a Red Light"

    "Don't Bank on It, He Wasn't Driving"

    A guy I went to high school with, who died of some rare infection, was buried with his Harley, with him in riding position on the saddle and full motorcycle outfit. Apparently, this caused a huge rift in the family.

    Death is such a great topic!

    ReplyDelete
  32. I'm not sure why I like cemeteries; I guess a combo of a peaceful location and whispers of interesting stories coming from the gravestones. I would definitely stop short at one that mentioned murder though.

    ReplyDelete
  33. For those who like cemeteries and fantasy, I recommend Peter S. Beagle's "A Fine and Private Place." It's a book I used to re-read every couple of years but haven't revisited in a while. I'm thinking this holiday season would be a great time to get it out again.

    I love riding my bike through the San Gabriel Cemetery and checking out all the interesting tombstones and family resting places, but I always feel a little irreverent whizzing around in there. ;-)

    Can't wait until we get to the bottom of the van Winkle story. Someone's going to figure it out.

    ReplyDelete
  34. One day we'll find out. Karen, I've never heard of that book, but I'll check the library.

    Cryonics ... here's the thing. What if intelligent insects take over the earth, and when you're defrosted your looking into the face of a giant cockroach holding medical instruments. Or Raid.

    ReplyDelete
  35. DW and Earl, hope I'm not too late to say thanks for the excellent stories. I'm just back from Gettysburg, plus last summer I found a rural cemetery in Ohio with family members buried there. I like cemeteries; they feel more like church than church does (did).

    ReplyDelete
  36. What if when they defrost you, you can no longer spell "you're."

    ReplyDelete
  37. Years ago I did a short film at the (then called)Hollywood Memorial Cemetary. It's since been rebranded Hollywood Forever, which kinda bugs me, but whatever. Anyway, this is where Valentino is buried and Cecil B. DeMille and Tyrone Power and a host of power players from the golden age of film.

    The most touching marker there, among all the huge statuary and monuments, is Mel Blanc's simple head stone that you might miss if you didn't know where to look. It just says "That's All Folks."

    Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Matthew was my step brother. He was kidnapped and murdered in 1986. Cynthia and Jody were siblings. Matt was taken from the Santa Anita mall and was found a few weeks later. His murderer was caught and still resides in prison.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Very, very sad. Thank you for leaving the comment, Anon.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Matthew was my friend in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades. His mother was a family friend and my 2nd grade teacher. Matthew was quick and hilariously funny. I can still remember the outrageous poems he would make up.

    I loved him and I miss him.

    ReplyDelete
  41. We should all be remembered so fondly, Jason. I'll place a flower at the grave this month.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I knew matt in high school he was my fellow "misfits" fan well all around good punk rock fan he was bit sarcastic and crass I found to be refreshing I always wondered if they caught the bastards that killed him and that's how I came to this site today I wish it told me more like why? But thank you for noticing a good kids grave and giving me the little insight that it has given

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hi Anon,
    When I wrote this I was doing contract work at the LA Times, and had the research group try to find something in the files, but came up empty. So what we have are several people in the comments who still think about and remember him to this day. Thanks for being one of them. I didn't know Matt then, but I know him a little bit now.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I worked in Sierra Madre for several years, managing the men's Big & Tall store on Kersting Court in the early 80s. Later, I moved to Sierra Madre and lived on Mountain Trail for five years (mid-nineties). My wife and I visited this cemetery each year on Memorial Day because of the beautiful service they held there. But it was such a peaceful place, that we went back other times just to contemplate.

    As we looked at the graves, I saw many of my former Big & Tall customers (Thomas Englert, Marc Mueller, etc. ) buried there along with other people I'd met over the years in Sierra Madre and Arcadia. But aside from those I knew, I was fascinated and saddened by the gravestone of Matthew Van Wickle.

    Over the years, I have searched for information on his murder, and being a local for so long, I was surprised that I did not remember reading or hearing about it in the news.

    15 years ago, we moved from Sierra Madre to Virginia, and yet, I remained haunted by this gravestone and its inscription.

    Tonight, I was browsing the deceased members of my alma mater, Arcadia High School, and I came across a “Matthew Van Winkle
    Class of 86.” I decided to search Google on his name, as I had done many times previously, and I wound up here.

    I can’t say for sure if this is the same person who rests beneath this headstone, but it may well be. Perhaps, one here who knew him could confirm this for us. For all those who’ve wondered what Matthew may have looked like, please go here to see his face at the bottom left of the page: http://www.arcadiaapaches.com/memories/memorial/memorial_7.htm

    Thanks to Karen for helping to solve what has been a decades-long mystery for me. May Matthew Van Wickle rest in peace.

    Rob Schilling
    Charlottesville, VA

    ReplyDelete
  45. What a powerful remembrance, Rob, top to bottom. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I'm friends with his sister who is an amazing teacher and who named her son after her brother. She and her parents are amazing people who have triumphed over so much.

    ReplyDelete