In Cleveland’s history there are the names that linger and echo influence through the years. What if someone could gather all those figures in one place?
Lake View Cemetery has done that, in a way. An afternoon walking—and driving…it’s a big place—through the cemetery becomes a history lesson. Rockefeller, Wade, Stokes and Hanna made Lake View their final resting place.
The Garfield Monument may be the best starting point from Mayfield Road. It’s hard to miss a big sandstone building on a hill in the middle of a cemetery. Plus you can pick up a map there for easier grave finding.
Another easy to find site is that of John D. Rockefeller. Just look for the 70 foot tall obelisk. Behind the monument rests several members of the Rockefeller clan. At the center is the grave of one of the wealthiest men in American history. And in death, he still makes money.
I love traditions and the history behind them. The quirkier the better. J.D.’s grave has its own. The story goes that during the Depression, Rockefeller would hand out dimes to people on the street. Now people leave dimes and other change on his headstone in remembrance.
Police historians, beer enthusiasts, or Untouchables fans will find their way to the central lagoon. Alongside is a marker for the Eliot Ness. Although not actually buried at the site, the stone serves as a memorial to the man who brought down Capone and ran for mayor of Cleveland.
Right next to Ness lies another Cleveland legend, a pleasant surprise that wasn’t listed on the Lake View map. The headstone for Harvey Pekar is simple and unpretentious, like the man himself. The only thing that really stands out is his quote on the stone. “Life is about women, gigs, an’ bein’ creative.”
As I paid my respects the situation struck me as ironic. The absolute opposite of what he’d want to see. Imagine an embodiment of Harvey seeing people visit the site. In his raspy voice, he’d say something like, “Why are you spending time with all these dead people. Go do some living.”
Leaving Harvey to his rest, I had one last stop I wanted to make.
Ray Chapman’s grave jumped out from its spot, even though it sat away from the drive. The piles of balls, bats and caps made it easy to see.
Now Chapman is not a hall-of-famer. He’s probably not even well known outside of baseball historians and Clevelanders. And his fame is tragic…the only Major League Baseball player to be killed by a pitch.
If not for that fateful moment, he may have been known as a member of the 1920 World Series champion Cleveland Indians. Still Chapman is cemented in Cleveland baseball history.
What amazes me are the tributes people lay at Chapman’s grave. The man died in 1920…it’s not as if those leaving their memorabilia saw him play. Chances are most of them weren’t even born. Still, Chapman means something to them, as part of the Indians history and Cleveland history. Enough for them to honor him nearly 100 years after his death. And that is pretty cool.