Lakewood is rich in history and stories — and some of the most interesting ones come from unexpected places. Here are stories submitted by the friends and families of Lakewood in honor of our 150th. Thank you to everyone who shared a story!
My husband Jon loved Minneapolis. When friends and family would come to visit, he would take them on his “tour” which always included a drive through Lakewood Cemetery. When he passed away from cancer it seemed only logical that he should be forever at Lakewood – a place that he was proud to share with many. When I visit, I find peace at the sundial, and my favorite memory is attending concerts in the chapel.
As a young kid in the early 1960s, I remember riding my bicycle up to the main office of Lakewood Cemetery from my parent’s house on Fremont Avenue and 34th Street. I was to make the monthly payment on my parents’ family plot. As I remember it was $5.00. The office doors were massive and the counter was high and imposing to a 12-year-old kid! Their plot was just south of the cannon [at the GAR Memorial], and sometimes I would ride over to look at it and try to imagine its history. I still have an interest in history and ran the streetcars at Lake Harriet for 23 years. My wife and I bought a plot just across the road from my parents several years ago.
My parents purchased their plots at Lakewood in the mid 70’s when I was 10 years old. My dad was interested in genealogy and visiting the graves of our ancestors. My parents particularly liked the beauty and history of Lakewood. We would drive around the cemetery noting the many beautiful monuments and historic mausoleums along with the plots of many famous Minnesotans. We loved walking near the lake and seeing all the wildlife that surrounded it. My parents are now buried not too far from the grave of Hubert H. Humphrey who they revered when he was governing up until the 1970’s. Ironically enough, there are two couples that lived on our block in South Mpls that are now buried within yards of my parents. They remain neighbors even in death. Even now, I like to drive around the cemetery with my children after visiting my parents to take in the beauty and history of such an iconic part of Mpls.
I hardly knew my mother. She died when I was four years old, and was buried at Lakewood Cemetery. I am now seventy six years old, and I have been coming to Lakewood Cemetery with my family on Memorial Day ever since. My father died fifty years later than my mother, and he was buried right next to her. I miss them both dearly. My great aunt, who cared for me right after my mother died, and her husband are also buried nearby.
Lakewood cemetery is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I know. I love to walk and slowly drive around inside the cemetery. And by doing so, what strikes me most is an awareness of a certain singularity that is surrounded by a sea of differences. The singularity is the regular display, etched or carved in stone, of dates that depict the lifespans of those interred. The differences are the locations, sizes, shapes, colors, artworks, and names on the monuments that are displayed throughout the grounds.
Taken together, they evoke a consciousness of the temporary and finite quality of life itself, and of the permanent and infinite quality of an expired life. That consciousness produces an aura of the sacred. Lakewood Cemetery’s endowed beauty and peace provides a perfect setting to contemplate the sacred, which helps to mitigate the fear of one’s own passage into that permanent infinity.
About 1944, every year my Dad and I would put flowers from our garden on my brother’s grave. Brad died when he was just 3 years old. My Dad acquired the graves for Brad about 1938. Brad was by himself for years but now there is his Dad, Mom, sister and Grandma with him. My sister decorated the graves for years, but now I have Lakewood decorate on July 4th and Christmas.
My husband passed away at a young age, and so as a young wife, I wasn’t really prepared for this event. Not being from MN originally, my husband’s family recommended Lakewood as other members of their family are buried here in the Greek Section. It is without a doubt a beautiful and peaceful resting place.
I had a marker placed for my great-grandparents when I recently made a 1,000 mile trip to Lakewood and discovered that they were buried there next to my grandparents. I was unaware of that when I got emergency leave from the Army to visit Lakewood for my grandfather’s funeral in 1966. I am just glad that I could add a tribute to them.
Our plot was bought in the early 1900s by my great grandmother, Elizabeth. The graves there are hers, her son’s, my uncle, my grandmother, my mother and my father. So much family history in one place. My favorite memory of Lakewood is when I was a child, our family would walk to Lakewood from our home on Pillsbury Ave. on Memorial Day to put flowers on the graves. I remember it as such a beautiful place. My husband and I, who live in Oregon, have bought a plot “across the street” from the family plot, where our cremated remains will be buried. I like to think that I will be back near the family, in a place with so many memories.
The Leekley Family has owned two lots at Lakewood for 100 years, since 1921. It is our centennial anniversary at Lakewood. Lakewood staff have always been very helpful to the family in arranging all of our memorial and burial services. We look forward to continuing that relationship for generations to come. Thank you, Lakewood, for such a beautiful final resting place.
My great aunt is buried by the little cemetery pond at Lakewood. Last summer I went to visit her and saw a huge eagle sitting on a branch over the pond. He was very close to me. He sat there for a very long time. It was awesome! I had never seen an eagle before!
My cousin, Nancy, and I have been close friends since childhood, as our grandparents were brother and sister and lived 6 blocks from each other. Though my family left Minneapolis years ago, I was able to visit in the summers. Nancy and I would explore South Minneapolis on foot, visiting 50th and France, Lake Harriet, and we would end our walks in Lakewood. There we would reminisce about grandparents, aunts, and uncles, who were buried there. I still visit in the summer and we still end our walks in Lakewood, remembering those who have passed including parents and a daughter now.
My favorite monument is the large elk that overlooks Lakewood’s lake and my favorite memory is going with my parents to see my grandparents and hear the family stories. Many of our family members are buried at Lakewood since back in the 1950’s. My husband and I have both pre-purchased our plots to ensure we are buried there as well. It’s such a beautiful location; and has such beautiful grounds. We have since moved away but still return to visit and place flowers in memory of my parents.
A few months after my husband was laid to rest, my daughter and I attended the lantern lighting ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the sky gave some lighting moments back to us. A distant storm was brewing. The ceremony was a very real comfort during our time of mourning. Shortly after my husband died I made a trip to the cemetery at the height of spring. The blossoming trees, the tulip gardens and the lake were stunning. Thank you for such a beautiful place to visit during some difficult days. Celebrating Father’s Day at Lakewood with memory ribbons and beautiful white roses was another especially moving way to remember my loved one.
My first relative buried at Lakewood was my Grandfather’s 7 year old sister in 1887. I have the original deed for the lot purchased by my Great Grandfather on 4/23/1887 for $40 for a 12 person plot near the entrance. It is signed by C M Loring (treasurer) and R D Cleveland (secretary), early founders of Lakewood. I will be the last to be buried on the lot.
There used to be a little back gate at the southwest corner of Lakewood by the Lake Harriet bandshell. My grandparents lived on Linden Hills Blvd and entered the cemetery through there. My Great Grandmother asked to be buried in that corner so she could hear the band concerts, and she has been listening to them since 1914. Her husband joined her in 1921.
My sister died at the age of 21, three months after her wedding. It was sudden carbon monoxide on Veteran’s day. Very appropriate as my father was a veteran in ww11. My parents died a year apart, my father on July 4 and my mother July 16. Their deaths were the heartache they had due to my sister’s passing. My parents suffered in ww11. My father survived the battle of Monte Casino and was wounded there. My mother and her parents were in work camps in Germany until liberation. They met in England and immigrated to Minneapolis with me. My sister was born in Minneapolis. The first time I went to Lakewood was for my sister’s funeral and was amazed by the serenity and beauty of Lakewood. I do not live in Minnesota but I try to go back as often as I can, only to Lakewood as I have no family in the USA. I have my resting place next to my parents and am grateful that it will be kept up after I am gone. It is truly a remarkable place.
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.
The first place I ever saw a Canada goose was in Lakewood Cemetery. This was in 1970 or so. I used to visit the cemetery through the “back gate” off of Barrie Road. During the same excursions, I would play along the trolley tracks south of 42nd St., before they had been restored.
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
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