Just Thinking, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Once I was back home in Portland, I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do. I was here for good and wanted to get to know every inch of the city.

In June we went across the river to the place where the high class dead people end up, the Riverview Cemetery. Yes, one of our founding fathers’ was Henry Failing. But he made it look good.

June: Visiting High Class Dead People

In July, Grandpa Nelson and I rode our bicycles eight miles around Portland in the Sunday Parkways event. Streets closed to traffic, signs to keep us from getting lost and wonderful sunshine made it a glorious day.

July: Biking the City
August: Back to Salinas

In August, I came back down to Salinas to visit you for your Daddy’s birthday. We had a nice dinner and I gave you a pretty head wreath from the Belmont Street Fair.

September brought Auntie Bridgett’s Birthday, with brunch at The Cricket Cafe, shopping downtown, and dinner at Kenny and Zuke’s. Here she is with the critters by the Pioneer Courthouse.

September: Bridgett’s Birthday!
October: Thinking about Life and Death



In October we said goodbye to Barbara Kadden, celebrated Halloween, and did some thinking about life and death.






November saw me in San Diego to visit family, then back up in Portland to go on adventures with Jasper and Kestrel.

November: Adventures!







December is just coming to a close, and I am still figuring out what comes next. But I’m not worried. With my lovely people to love, possibilities to ponder and trees to walk under, life is sweet.

December: Beauty of the Rain


Grandma Judy

Real and Make Believe

Dear Liza,

Death gives us perspective.

Make Believe

You and I have talked about Mr. John Steinbeck, how he was born in Salinas, lived a long and busy life, and then died, and is buried in the Garden of Memories. Knowing that there was a big part of the world that happened before us, and will be a long time after us, lets us see ourselves as a piece of the world.

This month at Barbara Kadden’s funeral, Death was right there with us, by her grave under the bright maple trees. It wasn’t dressed in a long black cloak, but silently standing up from its usual crouch in the dark corners of our minds, letting us see it clearly for a few hours.

And now it is Halloween, and pretend-Death is all around. Bony hands reach up from make believe graves in flower beds and grim reapers swing on sunny porches. They seem to say “See? It’s really okay. It’s all in fun.” IMG_0129.jpg

But the peaceful dead at Lone Fir, Home of Peace, Garden of Memories, and River View Cemeteries disagree. “Not in fun,” they say. “We really lived. Some of us for only a few months, some for over a hundred years, and then we died. Those we loved mourned us. It is not fun, but what is.”

I think people love Halloween because it lets us toy with Death. The Great Mystery becomes a costume to wear or a movie to watch, to make it small enough so it can be thought about safely. It is a way of thinking about the unthinkable.

And I’m okay with that.


Grandma Judy

River View Cemetery, Part 4

Dear Liza,

This is my last post (for now) about River View. This one is mostly just questions and delights. I have made a quick run through email sources and historic newspapers of Oregon, and not found enough references to help much.

For example, I am sad that this mom only lived to be 39, but happy that her family decided to include her nickname on her stone. img_01091.jpgRest in Peace, Becky Hunt.

This headstone, for Domingo V. Ruiz, 2nd Oregon Co. F Private Adopted, 1944, is the only Latin name in the circle of stones dedicated to the 2nd Oregon Regiment. Who is he? Why was he “adopted?” I will do more research and get back to you.img_0034.jpg

This stone was decorated with little doodads..a heart shaped necklace, some bits of wood. Hmmm. Who was Rocky? A boxer? A flying squirrel?img_00041.jpg

Mr. Jacob Mueller has a symbol on his headstone that I don’t recognize…it’s not Woodsmen of the World, Odd Fellows, or Masonic, or even the Deathly Hallows. Does anyone recognize it? I have found references from about the right time to suggest that he was a diplomatic to Frankfurt -on-the-Main, a part of what is now Germany, in 1885, and that he had a sister who lived in Estacada, Oregon and a brother who lived in Portland. img_0061.jpg

Finally, who was May Her Cha? Again, an unusual name for an historically racist cemetery in an historically racist city. There are ads for River View from the early 1900s that actually say “absolutely and exclusively limited to the Caucasian race.” Are some racist dead guys going to be cranky? Or have we finally learned to get along, at least in death?


There were a few other Chinese headstones nearby, the earliest death was 1987. Maybe sometime around then, the despicable policy was changed. Or maybe  Ms Cha, living to be 103, earned some respect!

Off to find more questions!


Grandma Judy

River View Cemetery, Part 3

Dear Liza,

As you know, I love questions.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I love cemeteries. They always seem to ask more questions than they answer!IMG_0098.jpg

For example, in one section of River View Cemetery were nearly a dozen headstones with a man’s name, another name in quotation marks, and the date the man died. Sometimes the word “drowned” was included.

Robert Wilson, for example, was 27 years old when he “drowned”, so we figured the Embleton was a ship he was serving on.

There was also the headstone of a young man named Joseph W. Curling, also “drowned” on the Embleton.But he died November 20, 1888.img_0105.jpg

I started looking in old newspapers for the Embleton. This ship had it rough.

In 1885, the Embleton, a British merchant sailing ship, stopped in Acapulco, Mexico, to deliver coal. Apparently it picked up some diseased fresh water, because a few days out of port, the sailors began to sicken and die. Captain Payton continued up the Pacific coast of South America for his home port of Tacoma, Washington.

By the time the Embleton reached Tacoma, only two men, two ship’s boys and Captain Payton were still alive, having guided the ship with less than half of her usual crew. An official inquiry found the Captain blameless and the remaining crew heroic in their efforts. The ship was cleaned and returned to duty.

But this brings the question. If Robert Wilson was on the Embleton in January 1885, he was on a ship of sick and dying men. How did he “drown”? Who was keeping track of how the men died? “Drowned” was not included on every headstone of a sailor who died on duty, so why this one?

And as to Mr. Joseph Curling, he became crew of the Embleton five years after the disastrous infection. I can’t find any evidence as to when he came on board, but his November 20, 1888 date of death is odd. That entire month, the Embleton was on the Willamette, between Portland and Astoria. Did he simply fall overboard and drown?

Later, in 1890 to 1891, the Embleton took almost two years to cross from Scotland to Tacoma. Even back then, that was really slow. There were several news articles expressing concern, including one titled “Is She Still Afloat?”

Like I said, questions. You gotta love ’em.

As you might guess, the Embleton itself ended badly. Sailing across the Irish Sea in a dense fog in July 1900, it was hit midships by the liner Campania, cut in two, and sank with all but seven men. Some ships just can’t catch a break.

Hopefully I will have happier news tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

River View Cemetery, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Memorial to the Second Oregon Regiment

There were so many interesting things (and people) at River View Cemetery, I wanted to share some more with you. The famous people memorialized here don’t stop at founders and politicians. Important people like Henry Weinhard, one of the first and most successful brewers here in the land where we love beer, is buried surrounded by his family and whimsically remembered with a can of beer.


Colonel Owen Summers and his Second Oregon Regiment from the Spanish American War in the Philippines are all here. The men are buried in a circle that surrounds a statue of a soldier, the flag nearby at half-staff for the late John McCain. Colonel Summers himself is buried away from this area, with his wife and family.

Captain Couch

Captain Couch, a sea captain who developed an entire portion of the city, is buried under an impressive, nautical themed column with chains, an anchor, and compass. Another set of “streets” buried nearby are Flanders, Glisan, and Hoyt.

You see, when Captain Couch mapped out his neighborhood in Northwest Portland, he labeled the streets by letters: A, B, C, etc. Later city planners wanted something more “romantic”, so they chose men from Portland’s history to coincide with the letters, like Ankeny, Burnside, and Couch himself. This decision now gives us a shorthand history lesson as we drive through town.  We can also see that, like today,  offspring of important people often married offspring of other important people, which we see in headstones such as “John Couch Flanders” and ” Caroline Couch Glisan”.

Couch merges with Glisan

David Campbell, the Fire Chief who died saving his men in 1911 and who is also memorialized on West Burnside, is buried here.

Harvey Scott, who was editor of the Oregonian newspaper for many years, is here. He and I don’t see eye to eye on things, as he opposed women’s suffrage and public high schools. Interestingly, his sister, Abigail Scott Duniway,  a suffrigist and prolific author who also edited a newspaper ( The New Northwest) is buried at River View. I wasn’t able to find her memorial, but I haven’t covered even half the ground yet.img_0111.jpg

In the words of another famous dead person, “I shall return.”


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