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Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
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Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
The first burials in the graveyard date from the 1880s, but the cemetery itself was established officially in 1905 by the State of California. At that time, it was called Sunset Cemetery and served as the burial ground for the sleepy village of Westwood. Surrounded by a low wall and dirt roads, Sunset Cemetery stood in the middle of grasslands and a handful of country homes.
Now Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park is entirely surrounded by high-rises, so that the graveyard is invisible from the street. You can only enter on its west side, from Glendon Avenue. Watch for a small sign about eye level on one of the buildings as you’re headed toward Wilshire Boulevard. The entrance looks as if you’re driving into a parking lot, but veer right at your first opportunity and you’ll see parking on the street that encircles the burial lawn.
The cemetery’s name changed to Westwood Memorial Park in 1926. The graveyard only allowed ground burials until 1952, when the first of its ten mausoleums was built. Service Corporation International bought the cemetery from the Pierce Brothers in 1991 and added it to their Dignity Memorial Network, which includes cemeteries across the US. In 2002, Westwood Memorial Park was recognized by the Cultural Heritage Commission of Los Angeles as a Historical-Cultural Monument.
Marilyn’s lipstick-pink marble
Seeing Stars says, “If you had to choose only one Hollywood cemetery to visit, Westwood Village Memorial Park would be your best bet.” This was not always the case. Joe DiMaggio chose this cemetery to be Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place because it was sleepy and out of the way. Since then, the marble front of her niche in the mausoleum has been stained pink by all the lipstick kisses left by fans.
Natalie Wood’s marker
According to Forever L.A.: A Field Guide to Los Angeles Area Cemeteries and their Residents, the second most-visited grave in Westwood belongs to Natalie Wood, who starred in Westside Story and Rebel Without a Cause, and drowned in her nightgown after a night of partying on a yacht with her husband Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken.
Also buried in Westwood Memorial Park are Rodney Dangerfield (whose headstone says, “There goes the neighborhood.”), Rat Pack crooner Dean Martin, Bob Crane (most famous for Hogan’s Heroes and the scandalous way he died), Carroll O’Connor (who played Archie Bunker before he became a TV police chief), Don Knotts (who moved from The Andy Griffith Show to Disney movies to become the nosy landlord on Three’s Company, and original Charlie’s AngelFarrah Fawcett.
Don Knott’s lovely marker
The cemetery contains some especially sad stories. Dominique Dunne, the older sister in the first Poltergeist movie, was strangled by an ex-boyfriend. Heather O’Rourke, the pretty blonde girl swallowed by the Poltergeist house, died of heart failure during surgery at the age of 12. 20-year-old Dorothy Stratten, a Playboy Playmate of the Year, was transitioning into television guest spots and legitimate movies, when she was raped and murdered by the husband from whom she had separated.
Robert Bloch rests behind this gate
In addition to all the movie stars, Westwood has its share of writers. Author of In Cold Blood Truman Capote’s ashes are in a niche facing the cemetery entrance. The ashes of Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, are in the Room of Prayer columbarium beyond Marilyn. Billy Wilder, screenwriter of Sunset Boulevard and Some Like it Hot, has a headstone that reads, “I’m a writer, but then nobody’s perfect.” Near him lies Ray Bradbury, whose headstone remembers him as the author of Fahrenheit 451.
Bettie Page’s little stone
Some stars rest here without little fanfare. “Queen of the Pin-Ups” Bettie Page has a very modest stone. Frank Zappa’s ashes are apparently buried in the unmarked grave beside Lew Ayers, who was TV’s Dr. Kildare. Roy Orbison, best remembered as a Traveling Wilbury or for the song “Pretty Woman,” lies in an unmarked plot above Frank Wright Tuttle’s bronze marker, according to The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians.
History of Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary
Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Park and Mortuary was established in 1905 by the state of California under the name of Sunset Cemetery, with the earliest burials at the site dating back to the 1880s. In 1926 the cemetery’s name was changed to Westwood Memorial Park as the city began to take shape with nearby UCLA to open a few years later. At that time the cemetery only had ground burials and it wasn’t until 1952 that the first of the current 10 mausoleums was built on the cemetery property.
In 1961 the existing wood framed chapel was added on the southern side of the property and remains a beautiful addition to the cemetery grounds. The cemetery began with 2.72 acres, but in the 1950s and 1960s portions of the land not being used for cemetery purposes were sold to the developers of the AVCO Building and Theatres and the Westwood Presbyterian Church leaving the cemetery with a little over two acres.
In 1991 the cemetery became a member of the Dignity Memorial® network. In November 2002, Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Park was designated as Historical-Cultural Monument No. 731 by the Cultural Heritage Commission of the city of Los Angeles. What was once a country graveyard surrounded by grasslands, a few country homes and dirt roads, is now a beautiful cemetery tucked away in the heart of Westwood’s business district as a serene oasis where families can continue with the tradition of ground burial or chose a crypt in the newly added Sanctuary of Prayer Mausoleum. In addition to traditional burial spaces the cemetery has added private and semi-private burial spaces along with many options for cremation. The history of Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Park is preserved within the walls of the cemetery as well as new options for memorialization which have been created so that our cemetery has something to offer each individual and family