26,000 Souls Interred Here Are Disgraced/Dishonored
Now known as the ‘Odd Fellows Section’ at Greenlawn, for the last 86 years these 26,000 souls lie interred in a mass grave. We would have hoped that after the initial desecration of their remains that this site would have been considered, respected, with grave sites identifiable, and the ‘Section’ treasured by their descendants.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case and certainly not by the current ownership of Greenlawn!
Ms Rosand's Story Is Not Unique
Ms. Rosand’s findings are very similar to the findings of Rene Monie. A native of Marseilles, with a home in San Francisco, Rene also found his 2nd Great Grandmother, Marie, had been buried in San Francisco’s Odd Fellows Cemetery.
His follow-up also took him to Greenlawn in 2005. In Rene’s situation, he was told that the ‘Section’ was closed to the public. Further inquiry led him to the site of the ‘Section’ where he found that Greenlawn had converted the ‘Cemetery Section’ into an ongoing ‘cut-flower’ nursery business. The 5 acre ‘Section’ of graves was now traversed by tractors and pickup trucks with rows of both nursery plants and unplanted sections.
"Welcome" to the Odd Fellows section of the Greenlawn Cemetery
No flowers for the ‘Odd Fellows Section’; just chain link fence, trucks, tractors, weeds, farm debris, an odd assortment of storage containers, along with a damaged, broken old monument.
The Desecration Continues
An assortment of poorly maintained storage containers and small sheds lined the east fence line. Grave markers damaged by frequent farm tillage have been cast to the side, and the surrounding chain link fence was frequented by old pallets, plastic plant containers, waist-high weeds, piles of weed-covered topsoil, and all the typical ‘farm rubble’ commonly seen at a small nursery operation.
On the west side of the ‘Section’, just below the Home Depot parking structure, the ‘O.F. Section’ monument stood ‘damaged and broken’, serving as the only reminder that more than 26,000 souls are interred here.
In 2003, shortly after the farming operation had opened, Malcolm Carpenter, then Colma’s City Planner, commented that the nursery satisfied the maintenance requirements and looked good. 15 years later, could he make the same statement?
How ironic that the 5 acre ‘Odd Fellows Section’ is now being used to provide cut flowers to the local fresh flower businesses that decorate hundreds of thousands of grave sites spread across Colma’s city of cemeteries.
No flowers for the ‘Odd Fellows Section’; just chain link fence, trucks, tractors, weeds, farm debris, an odd assortment of storage containers, and a damaged, broken old monument.
Fortunately for us with ancestors interred in the ‘O.F. Section’, Rene didn’t ‘fly home to France’. With a home in San Francisco, he has stayed and made his indignation felt. It has been felt by Greenlawn’s ownership and the State agency that provides oversight to the cemeteries within California, the ‘Funeral and Cemetery Bureau’, a department of California’s Dept of Consumer Affairs. Rene has also found allies in the national ‘Odd Fellows Association’, the ‘Garden of Innocence Project’, and several other concerned individuals, including myself, John Rector of Canby, OR.
Just as Rene and Ms. Rosand, and I’m sure many others, I discovered that my GG Grandfather, William Evans Hansell, and his wife, GG Grandmother, Caroline May Hansell, along with 7 of their children had originally been buried in their private family plot at Odd Fellows. Myself a 3rd generation native of San Francisco, my journey also took me to Greenlawn and the shock of finding the best view of the ‘O.F. Section’ was to be found on the top level of the adjacent Home Depot parking lot.
This is wrong; morally and ethically. And to find that the California Bureau of Cemeteries finds ’there is insufficient evidence to support a violation’ on the part of Greenlawn is also hard to comprehend. As of Nov. 2017, Commerce Holding Co. Inc., the group that now owns Greenlawn Memorial Park, recorded in excess of $5 million in endowment funding.
There are no excuses and our ancestors are our business and our heritage. All grave sites are from a ‘different time’ and with the dead, time has no meaning. Those interred in the ‘Odd Fellows Section’ at Greenlawn Memorial Park have always deserved far better, as do those who cherish the lives and souls of their ancestors.
As December 2018, despite the evidence of destroying grave markers, the refusal of visitation to the area, and the overall desecration of the ‘Odd Fellows Section’ mass burial site, both the owners of Greenlawn Cemetery and the California State Bureau of Cemeteries have refused any wrong doing nor any willingness to correct this harm.
We need your help with letters and phone calls, to both parties. Regardless of whether you’ve a loved one buried in the ‘Odd Fellows Section’ at Greenlawn or not, all who have loved ones buried in a cemetery understand the base ‘wrong doing’ of this situation.
We’re not asking for a ‘fairway look’. We want the area restored to its purpose, a grave site. A clean natural area of reflection, with a restored monument whereby family and visitors can visit their deceased family members. There are no excuses for willfully desecrating a grave site and allowing the practice to continue under color of law. There never has been. There never will be.
This Post Has 19 Comments
my ancestor Alexander Jousseaum Delatour 1817-1886 + grandson Arthur J Delatour were both buried @ the original Odd Fellows Cemetry in San Francisco + moved to Greenlawn Memorial Park inColma, California. I’m angry they are in a mass grave with no markings, extremely disrespectful. It must be time to write a good story to the San Francisco Chronicle.
I just found an ancestor on the list. I would like to contact other family members and John Rector and Rene Monie to join in on a fight for our ancestors right to a respectful space.
Please, could you email me if a group is forming to fight this. If no group exists, we should start one. Maybe there would be power in numbers, exposing this atrocity.
Thank you so much for this article and the list of the deceased.
Michael, Please contact me, my number is 707-485-2491. I am a member of the Odd Fellows committee assigned to deal with this issue. This past week there has been considerable movement on this and I want to get you connected with us directly.
Now I’m beyond mortified! A now deceased uncle shared he heard something in the news of Greenlawn a couple of years back – this must have been what he was echoing. My uncle alluded Greenlawn was getting it together – from 2019 posts, this is not the case. In 2013 alongside my Godmother, I discovered my uncle’s grandfather, my great grand, was buried in Section F of Greenlawn. A location overflowing with eucalyptus leaves, debris, hand erected crosses, make shifts to mark the interred littered the landscape. A sign read “non-endowment property.” Staff informed me this section was acquired and was not part of their endowment properties. Genealogist and Historian to my family, I know better of my family resources during this 1955 death. I suspect during the sale of this property, a lie was told of endowment with monies taken and service not rendered. Or quietly a Colored Section was birthed with full knowledge what was sold would never be maintained. Jews, Blacks, and Asians, were noticed of areas marked in this section. I have pictures of this section of captured markers and a map with names all of which are transcribed in an excel sheet in hopes that I will discover descendants to action. I reached out to California Bureau of Cemeteries without success. Please include me in your efforts to resolve your plight with prayers it will solve my own.
One of my ancestors was buried in the Odd Fellows cemetery in sf in 1877. I dont dare download the pdf file mentioned on my personal computer. Do you know of any other place where I might get a verification that he was/is buried there now? No one will return my calls st Greenlawn but now I know why! They don’t care. We the descendants do care!
Veto beach Fl.
What pdf do you speak of?
The PDF document of the registry is available by clicking on book image on this page: https://oddfellowscemeterycolma.org/odd-fellows-cemetery-sf-registry/
Hope this helps.
You can also look at Family Search for record: “California, Collections of the California Genealogical Society, 1700-1942. In that record look for Burial Record for IOOF Cemetery, 1885-1905
Legal action needs to be taken to both sue the owners of the cemetery and the State Bureau of Cemeteries, which without a doubt is quite corrupt. How the State Bureau came up with its decision in favor of the cemetery owner would probably show some close connections and favoritism.
Hi, I would like to be included in any group forming to fight this horrible injustice. Do you know if there is a group? If not we need to form one and I don’t know how to go about that.
I have registered my name to get updates but I feel the need to do more.
Thanks for your post.
what about the Odd Fellow’s funeral bell?
This is an injustice that must be corrected. I bet if you started a legal fundraising you would be able to solve this issue.
I am afraid this is happening in many places. We had the saner thing happen here in Seattle.
Please include me in any effort to fight this horrible situation. I am still in shock over this. How can this even be legal?
I was just there last weekend. Drove right in, took a few pics right next to the OF marker, and drove back out. I do wish it was maintained, but no endowment was given, so in some ways, hard to blame them. But I’d help out if an effort was put forward.
Steven Doukas who controls the cemetery does in fact send ridiculously delusional and threatening letters to those who file legitimate complaints about the illegal activities of his cemetery. He is extremely defensive and believes his threats will stop this effort to expose his illegal and disgraceful activities. Nobody should do business with this liar. There is more we know about his cemetery than he even realizes. He should be ashamed of himself as a person. Some fools are so greedy.
I hope things can be resolved
My 2x-great-grandparents were buried at Odd Fellows in 1891 and 1896, and the register shows they were removed to Greenlawn. This is a disgraceful way to manage these graves. The old news story above, about Ms. Rosand’s experience, mentions being able to pay to have a particular grave/casket exhumed, for cremation etc. Does this mean there is a map/plan, and is it still possible to have a grave found and removed? Thanks.
My Great Grandfather James S Belden is buried in the relocated area. His name is misspelled as Belding on the record but it is definitely him. So very sad and angry that he was exhumed and then placed where family can’t possibly attend.
I feel this so deeply in my soul. My great grandparents Charles and Anna Silcox and their infant daughter Laura were disinterred when their cemetery in philly was removed in the 1950’s to make room for a strip mall and parking lot. Their headstones were thrown under the Betsy Ross bridge into the water. I found their new resting spot and fortunately there’s no trash. But I feel a sadness not knowing exactly where their bodies lie and not being able to see their original stone. It’s so sad the disrespect shown to the dead.