Lakewood is rich in history and stories — and some of the most interesting ones come from unexpected places. Here are stories submitted by friends of Lakewood in honor of our 150th. Scroll down to share yours!
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My great-great grandparents, great-grandmother, grandparents and mother are all buried in a family plot near the southwest corner. Nearby are an aunt and uncle, and great-aunt and uncle. I’ve been visiting the cemetery since I was a child, and particularly like summer visits when you can hear the music from the Lake Harriet Bandshell.
When Jesse R. Bill, my husband’s grandfather, died from the Spanish flu in 1920, his widow Eleanor purchased several plots at Lakewood. Who could have imagined that others would lose loved ones to another pandemic exactly 100 years later! Today Jesse’s and Eleanor’s great-grandchildren and I visit not only Jesse ‘s and Eleanor’s gravesites, but those of their son and wife (Harry and Anne Bill ) and grandson (Gary L. Bill, my husband) a few feet away. It brings comfort to think of them resting together in a place of beauty and peace.
My father passed away in winter, during the covid-19 pandemic, and everything changed about the “usual” way a funeral could go.
Although the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and Funeral Director wore face masks, the graveside flag folding ceremony remained reverent and poignant on Lakewood Cemetery grounds, which remain striking even with bare trees and frigid air.
We worried a bit about elderly relatives navigating the frozen ground to walk the slight incline to the gravesite. However, the Lakewood team made sure the snow was removed for the interment, creating a safe walking path for our group.
Many generations of my grandparents’ families are buried at Lakewood–some who immigrated from Germany. The first buried there were my great grandfather (died 1878) and my grandfather’s brother, who passed away at age 2 that same year. The most recent internment was my mother, who passed away in 2011 at age 101. She is buried next to her parents.
My parents were World War II generation who moved to near Lake and Hennepin after the war, because of the large number of available apartments. They eventually ended up in Edina and met many others who also had lived in the uptown area early in their lives. They were hundreds of yards apart both times, and now are again, at Lakewood.
The first funeral I remember attending was that of my grandmother who is buried next to her husband in Lakewood. She was born in 1887 and buried in 1988. We accurately say in the family that our Norwegian born, socialist grandfather is buried, “to the left of Humphrey.” Since that time, I have buried both my mother and father next to one another in Lakewood and descriptively, “to the right of Humphrey.” My brother and his wife have also purchased adjacent plots in the area and I chose mine with a view. You’ll have to guess which side of Humphrey.
I lost my mother early in life was raised in part by my grandmother for those critical years after my mother’s passing. I can remember Grandma and I would make weekly trips to Lakewood to care for the flowers planted in the family urn. Grandma told me I was in charge of watering. I grabbed the watering can and carefully calculated my path to the hydrant to avoid stepping on someone’s grave as a child who superstitiously doesn’t step on a crack in the sidewalk. As I walked, I would read the names on the markers and wonder what their lives were like. At that early age, going to Lakewood to care for flowers was just a chore interrupting my childhood play time. Now looking back, it was much more than a chore, it was a lesson taught by my Grandmother to learn to memorialize our loved ones and keep them close to our heart. I cherish the peace and serenity that Lakewood offers its guests.
For most of my adult life I drove or walked by Lakewood not knowing it was a place I could enter. When I finally did pass through the massive gates, I was amazed at the beauty within—and how comfortable and welcomed I felt. Of all the experiences I’ve had at Lakewood since then, probably the most meaningful was participating in a Midsummer Memorial Mandala workshop in 2019—led by an artist who also created a large public installation next to the Chapel. While the big event was very beautiful and cool, the personal workshop experience was particularly moving. I made this mini mandala as I reflected on the loss of my mother, a colorful artist herself who brought so much creativity, joy and love to our lives. Being able to reflect on her significance while creating this temporary tribute to her was such a gift. And sharing stories with others in our group who were dealing with their own heartache—and creatively expressing and transforming it—was an experience I will never forget.
My first year working the Lantern Lighting celebration was this past year during the pandemic, it had been challenging enough planning celebrations and events this year, but to take these treasured traditions and make them still feel special in such a time of uncertainty, posed an extra challenge. On the very last night, I decided to just take a walk around the lake during the ceremony and really experience the event (since everything was running smoothly) and I listened to the bag pipes and saw families holding each other close, saying the names of people who they miss, and cheering when they heard their loved one’s name called. I was sitting behind a woman who had lost her sister to breast cancer and was there with her daughter, they pushed their lantern out and both got very emotional. Being so close to that raw emotion, and hearing the beautiful bagpipes, and watching the sunset – I got chills and felt overcome with emotion myself. It was such a beautiful experience to be a part of, and I’m so happy we were able to provide that moment for families.
I grew up on King’s Highway, so Lakewood has been a presence in my life for as long as I can remember. From sledding at Lyndale Farmstead Park as child, to driving around the Chain of Lakes with my friends as a teenager, to a photo shoot at the Lake Harriet Rose Gardens on my wedding day… Lakewood has literally been the visual backdrop of so many happy memories! After 43 years, my parents eventually sold their home on King’s Highway… but our whole family still feels a connection to Lakewood. We love that Lakewood offers opportunities for my family to remember loved ones who have passed, but also offers events like lantern lighting and Music in the Chapel to help my family make new memories with those who are still living. Thank you, Lakewood!
One of my favorite stories was when a woman called the Lakewood office about 8 years ago to order flowers for her grandfather’s grave. I told her I would have someone from our greenhouse team get it placed the same day. She was English-second language, so there was a bit of a language barrier, but she asked me to tell him it was from his family. I said I would tell the person on our grounds team, but that he would be happy to put it out whether it was from family, friends or acquaintances. The woman corrected me by explaining she wanted the worker to tell her grandfather the flowers were from his family because they could not be there.
Now think about how death and remembrance cross all man-made boundaries. This woman, who was Hmong, asked me in English (my primary language) to tell our team member, whose primary language happened to be Spanish, to tell her grandfather that the flowers we were placing on his grave were from his family. I hope nothing was lost in translation!
I love the history that Lakewood holds. Everyday when I am on the grounds, I think about the history of all those that have came here to say goodbye to those they love. It makes me feel connected to older generations of my own family, people that I never met- but that I know walked on the same ground I do.
SHARE YOUR STORY
Whatever your interest or connection with Lakewood, we’d love to hear about it! Use the prompts below for inspiration. And don’t forget to share your photos and stories on Facebook and Instagram as well: #lakewood150, #mylakewoodstory