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.