Looking Back, Just a Bit More…

Dear Liza,

Portland does SPRING very well!

This past year saw some big adventures, too.

Three generations! Me, Auntie Katie and Cousin Kestrel

In March, for my birthday, you and your family came up to help me keep a long-overdue promise to MY parents, to put their ashes into the ocean. We all drove over the mountains to Seaside, made a sand castle, and placed them in it. High tide would take them where they wanted to be.

David and Katie built their grandparent’s castle

A perfect Florentine

I started baking with more skill, with new equipment and confidence.

The summer came, and fall…

Leaves in Laurelhurst Park

In September we took the train to Vancouver, BC, and Seattle, Washington, and enjoyed what those cities had to offer.

Vancouver, BC, by day

Seattle by night

Auntie Bridgett kept painting, working hard as a member of SideStreet Arts.

Auntie Bridgett and one of my favorite paintings, A Paris

This year also saw the young people growing into wonderful ‘older’ people. Cousins Kyle and Jasper got to know each other and became buddies, bonding over Dungeons and Dragons and video games.

Cousins Kyle and Jasper, being guys together

As for me, I am still working on my story. It has grown from being a story about a CITY to being a story about a girl living IN a city.

My had drawn map of Portland, 1903

I never knew writing a book was so complicated, but I am learning, and I think that as long as I take time and don’t give up, it has promise.

My (at least) twelfth outline, getting more complicated and person- centered

Last year, I kept my promise to my parents. Maybe this year, I can keep my promise to me.

Happy New Year!!


Grandma Judy

River View Cemetery, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Yes, this makes Failing look good….

Yesterday, Auntie Bridgett and I decided we wanted to go on an adventure. We wanted to ride our bikes across the Willamette to the River View Cemetery. It would take about half an hour to get there, and we had maps to show us a good bicycle route. But we hit a snag.

Auntie Bridgett’s Brompton folding bicycle, Nigel, had a flat back tire. Fixing it would involve tools she doesn’t have and time she didn’t want to spend, so we changed our plans. We would drive Nigel to Clever Cycles, then continue driving to River View.

Eva, checking Nigel out

Clever Cycles on SE Hawthorne is the first bike shop we ever went into here in Portland. Auntie Katie rented us bikes from here to ride around town years ago. Eva, one of the many bike mechanics there, looked at Nigel and agreed that she and her colleagues would take care of Nigel and we could pick him up in about a week.

We headed across the river and south to River View Cemetery.  I’ve been told that “there’s a lot of good streets buried in River View,” and that this is the “high class cemetery.” It certainly is better maintained than Lone Fir…the lush grass is watered so often in these dry summer months that my sandaled feet got damp. Even the oldest stones are clean and legible, with no ancient grass covering them and no vandalism to be seen.

Dead people’s view of the River

And this does seem to be the high-rent district for dead folks. George Abernethy,  the first Provisional Governor of the Oregon Country, died five years before River View was founded, was buried in Lone Fir, then moved to River View. I guess Lone Fir had too much riffraff.

Founded in 1882, River View holds many of the founders of Portland, names that are familiar to anyone who has even briefly visited the city. William Ladd,  (Ladd’s Addition), James Terwilliger,  (Terwilliger Curves,) and Henry Pittock. (Pittock Mansion) are all within shouting distance of each other.

Their headstones are often huge,  needing to impress upon you just how important these men were. Besides their headstones, there are three benches in a part of the cemetery called Founder’s Park where Mr. Ladd, Henry Failing and Henry Corbett are memorialized, with their accomplishments carved in stone. It seems a bit…much.

Mr. Failing’s bench

However, a bench is a bench, and we enjoyed Mr. Failing’s quiet company as we ate our cheese and crackers. I will tell you more about this interesting cemetery tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Lone Fir Cemetery Part 2

Dear Liza,

Yesterday morning, Auntie Bridgett and I went on a tour of the Lone Fir Cemetery, just down the street from us at Stark and 26th. This cemetery has been used since 1846, when the farmer who owned the land, James Stephens,  buried his elderly father. He later sold the land to  a steamship owner named Colburn Barrell, who used it within a year to bury people who died when his steamship The Gazelle exploded.

Mr. and Mrs. Stephens, original owner of the cemetery

The first thing we saw when we got to the cemetery was a lady coming out,  followed by a whole flock of crows. She visits the cemetery every morning and feeds them dry cat food she carries in a plastic bag. She likes the attention, she says. I’m sure the crows enjoy the breakfast!

          Crow                                                     Photo Credit: Bridgett Spicer


We met Joel, our guide, and the other people on our tour. Joel is a volunteer for The Friends of the Lone Fir Cemetery, a group of people who got together after mean people broke into the cemetery on Halloween many years ago and broke a bunch of headstones and monuments. The “Friends” started repairing and guarding the cemetery, and asked the city of Portland to help. They do a good job.

We learned that the graves aren’t really organized, but people are mostly buried chronologically, in time order, from the northwest corner towards the southeast. Of course, there are exceptions , and very recent graves can be right next to pioneer headstones. Many of the old ones are impossible to read because moss grows on the stones. Eternal rest is assured. Eternal identification, not so much.

There are many beautiful black headstones with Russian writing and engraved portraits on them. When Mr. Reagan was President, he offered political asylum to any Russian or Ukrainian citizens who were Christians to come live in America, and many came to the Portland area. There are now thousands of these folks living here, and when they die, they are buried with these very distinctive headstones made by two men, who are the only ones in town who know how to make them. They have information on the front and poetry on the back. Your mommy has been translating them for me.

Russian headstone

Another interesting grave has an urn sitting on it rather than a headstone. James Hansen Frush was chief bartender at the Front Street Saloon, always generous with his friends and very well-loved. While he was alive, he had this big metal urn that he used to offer eggnog during the holiday season. When he died, his friends decided to place the urn over his grave to remember his generosity. But the next Christmas, they missed him, so they came across the river, fetched the urn back to the bar, and enjoyed eggnog in his memory, returning the urn to the grave after the New Year. This back and forth went on for a few years. The urn that is still here is a concrete cast of that urn. There is even a hole there the eggnog would come out.

Bartender’s Memorial                Photo Credit: Bridgett Spicer

There are many others, but the last one I will tell you about today is the grave of Eric Ladd. When Eric Ladd was born in Portland, his name was Leslie Carter Hansen. He became an actor, changed his name to Eric Ladd, moved to New York, then Hollywood, and retired back to Portland, very successful. He used the money he had made to help preserve some of the beautiful old buildings in town that were gong to be torn down.

When Eric got sick at  78 or so, a friend was traveling in Romania and found a beautiful iron cross. The friend bought it to use for when Eric died. Then his friends bought some iron fencing from Mark Twain’s house in Missouri (Eric loved Mark Twain’s writings and had made shows of his stories) and put the fencing around the grave to protect the cross. It is ornate, historic, and perfect.


My visit to the Lone Fir ended, as it always does, by me feeling lucky to be alive and happy to learn about all these people who lived here before me. But this time, I have fun information, as well!


Grandma Judy