Monday, May 21, 2012

Waking The Dead: Tea With The Duke

Southern California is a land of many wonders.  But, being a mere adolescent in terms of relative development with the rest of the world, we are bereft of the trappings our elders, namely the beautifully-manicured public parks so often found in big cities and European capitals.  Playgrounds (really awesome ones like La Laguna de San Gabriel Playground) abound in our suburban sprawl, but nothing in our neck of the woods provides the order and tranquility of traditional parks except, of course, a good old-fashioned graveyard.

Every once in awhile we like to explore a local cemetery in search of peace, pretty mausoleums, elaborate headstones, funny epitaphs, and even a celebrity or two.  Nestled above the beach in Corona del Mar, CA is Pacific View Memorial Park.  Sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean promise a peaceful rest for all of the residents there.  My grandparents claimed their little stake of Pacific View nearly 30 years ago and I would be lying if I said that I didn't think the chief reason for the their pick of plots had nothing to do with their propinquity to that of one Mr. Marion Robert Morrison - better known to you and me as John Wayne! 

A humble arrangement of silk flowers honors his memory.

Growing up in the area, I always knew that John Wayne was interred at Pacific View, but I had never really looked for his gravesite.  Knowing that both of my grandfathers were/are huge John Wayne fans (my paternal grandfather had a crudely-executed portrait of The Duke that know takes pride of place in the living room of my brother and his wife), I felt it only proper that we go and pay our respects to The Duke. I looked at the time when we entered the cemetery and realized that it was just about tea time; this was our first time having tea with nobility!

I thought, "Find a penny (or quarter), pick it up, and then all day you'll have good luck," but Mary told me it was bad form to remove the quarter form the headstone.  I am familiar with the Jewish tradition of placing small stones on the grave, but I had never seen the same done with small change.  You learn something new everyday.

We had a vague idea of where his plot was but instead of disrespecting the deceased by tramping all over, I looked up "directions to John Wayne's grave."  I followed the first link that came up and expected a plot number but was surprised to find what read like a treasure map.  For instructions on how to find the grave go here.  After taking thirteen paces past hangman's tree, we found the grave site and said "Howdy" to The Duke. Naturally, my grandfathers were fans of the westerns, but my favorite entries into the Wayne filmography are The Quiet Man and his unforgettable story arc on "I Love Lucy," and "The Lucy Show."

I was actually very surprised that Wayne's grave marker is so unassuming.  There are plenty of marble mausoleums and ostentatious gravestones, but his subtle stone marks a plot on a sunny slope facing the ocean among all the regular folks.  We only had a short time to visit Pacific View, but we managed to see a few things that day that made us smile.

"Got coffee Lord - then beam me up"
Nearly 102 years old when she moved on to that giant percolator in the sky and Lucille's sense of humor thrived.

Just like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland -
a grim reminder that "There's always room for one more..."

The Quiet Man (1952)
If you've never seen this film, do yourself a favor and watch it.  
John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara at the height of their powers!!!

Pacific View Memorial Park
3500 Pacific View Dr
Corona del Mar, CA 92625


Mr. Tiny


  1. Call me creepy, but I love visiting cemeteries. So peaceful and, dare I say, interesting. I've found my relatives (my great grand parents donated the land that several of my relatives are buried at, as did my brother), I've found Marilyn Monroe, and I've found beautiful moss-covered tombstones in England. They're all different, but they all tell a story.

    1. You're not creepy at all...well, at least not SUPER creepy. I know exactly what you mean. One of my favorite things to do is stumble upon a historic cemetery. We were in Australia and found one of the oldest cemeteries on a cliff above the ocean; it had amazing headstones and monuments that were succumbing to the salty ocean air, but the stories they told were fascinating!

  2. Pacific View is BEAUTIFUL. I've been to a number of military funerals there, and they always do a great job. Expensive pieces of property though!

    1. It is beautiful and their military monument at the entrance is really wonderful. I think my grandparents got in early before prices skyrocketed!