With the removal of remains from San Francisco’s Odd Fellows Cemetery and for their re-internment at Greenlawn Cemetery in Colma, the Odd Fellows purchased 25,743 individual grave and plot markers, August 1933.
Included with this purchase were 40 individual ‘Plot’ markers that denoted from which Section at San Francisco’s Odd Fellows Cemetery the individual remains had been buried. In the case of my family’s burials at Odd Fellows, they were buried in our family plot, Central Section. The Central Section plot marker was thus marked CENTL. With individually marked Plot, Section, and Grave Markers made, the mass reburial at Greenlawn could be done in an orderly fashion, with each Cemetery Section and set of remains marked.
For Decades, The Grave Markers Remained
For decades, the Odd Fellows Section remained marked as originally laid out. However, in 2000, the current owners of Greenlawn Memorial Park embarked on a re-purposing of the ‘Section’. Rather than observe and care for the dedicated grounds as a cemetery, they gradually allowed the 4.5 acres containing the ‘Section’ to be developed as a cut-flower nursery. In addition, a portion of the area also serves as a ‘Corporate Yard’ for equipment, storage sheds, soil piles. Fenced off and gated, the ‘Odd Fellows Section’, which had been unfit for care for years, sprouted irrigation, farming equipment, dirt roads for farm and trucks, and ‘blocks’ of planted rows of perennial and annual flowers grown for sale.
Along with the farming operation, came the needed soil tillage equipment: plow, disk, rototiller, tractor, skip loader, and other needed farming equipment. And with the preparation of the soil for planting, came the inevitable destruction of the marked grave site known as the ‘Odd Fellows Section’.
Taken in Nov 2019, this short video of the Odd Fellows Section at Greenlawn Memorial Park shows the current extent of nursery operations at the site.
As one who participated in a farming operation for 20 years, when tillage equipment contacts an object like a large stone, piece of concrete, or in this case, a hardened ‘clay grave marker’, both equipment and grave marker are likely damaged. When this happens, the worked ground will invariably be walked by labor and the object(s) removed from the area. In the case of the ‘Section’, grave markers found at the surface were picked up and tossed aside, away from further plantings. Not surprisingly, many damaged markers have been readily seen and photographed, cast along the fence line, out of the way.
A Criminal Act? Well, Apparently Not In Colma
As mistreatment and destruction of grave markers is considered a misdemeanor and a criminal act under the California State Penal Code ( CA Penal Code § 594.35), two caring individuals representing themselves, myself, and one other individual filed a complaint with the Colma Police Department against Greenlawn Memorial Park in early October 2019.
While interviewing with police personnel, the police called Greenlawn Memorial Park to notify them that a complaint was being filed against them. After a nearly 2-hour meeting, the two individuals returned to view the Odd Fellows Section from the Home Depot parking area (see photo).
Remarkably, a farm laborer was videoed moving a skip loader with bucket containing at least 100 damaged grave markers from the site of the nursery operation! He cooperated to the point of unwittingly turning the fully loaded bucket towards the two for a perfect picture!
Greenlawn Personnel Gather and Remove Grave Markers
Also, please look at the video below. It’s a short video, but certainly makes the point: Greenlawn personnel were intentionally gathering and removing damaged markers from the site! This was no coincidence. The phone call from the Colma Police Dept to Greenlawn had been made and within two hours, Greenlawn management had moved quickly to collect any clearly visible grave markers.
Recorded at the O.F. Section, Greenlawn ownership moves quickly to remove damaged grave markers from easy view.
Within a month of the initial complaint being filed, the plaintiffs who had filed the complaint were notified by the Colma Police Dept. that Greenlawn Memorial Park was viewed to hold ownership of the ‘O.F. Section’ grave markers and the case was closed. In a personal follow-up call to Colma PD regarding the matter, I was told that with ownership, Greenlawn “…could do as they wish with them.”
And with that, the saga of Greenlawn’s abuse and destruction of the Odd Fellow’s Section continues without recourse.
Greenlawn ownership continues to claim the flower nursery is not a nursery operation but a beautification project. They proudly proclaim they’ve even hired a “farmer” to maintain the site. While most might hire landscape maintenance professionals to maintain a beautification project, Greenlawn has chosen to hire a “farmer”. But when you plow, disk, till, level, and plant the ‘Odd Fellows Section’ on a regular basis, a farmer really is the best option!