Mostly likely, the urge to find a grave, was not one of the things on your bucket list. So, what was your favorite kind of movie as a kid? Maybe you liked Westerns, crime dramas, maybe musicals. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a link to one of these people that made an impact in the world? Grave hunting gives you tangible links to these icons of the past. Pilgrimages to the burial sites of icons have been taking place for centuries. In Palm Springs, you can visit the final resting place of your favorite outlaw, early pioneer, veteran or celebrity. Why not honor their contributions by paying them a visit at their final resting place?
There are two cemeteries near Palm Springs where you can connect with historic icons: The Welwood Murray Cemetery in Palm Springs and the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City.
The Welwood Murray Cemetery is situated on a 2-acre lot right next to the O’Donnell Golf Club and the Isiah Temple at the West End of Chino Drive. The gates are never locked, so feel free to visit anytime. Behind the large brick wall, expect to see beautifully kept grounds with flat headstones. Passing by, you would not know there was a cemetery as it looks like an empty piece of land behind a wall. Towering palms and the breath-taking view of the San Jacinto Mountains make for a feeling of peace, beauty and tranquility.
The Welwood Memorial Cemetery was originally owned by the Murray family and was donated to be used as the town cemetery. You can find the graves of many early settlers and pioneers here. Some markers include a person’s name etched into a marker in the ground. Other just describe the person there, such as “Mexican woman.” Other simply say “Unknown.” The Murrays are also buried here. Their graves are side by side and are marked with large piles of stones.
There are 6 famous memorials here as well, including swiss-born architect Albert Frey. Frey helped develop the design style now known as desert modernism. Some of his most notable buildings in Palm Springs include the Tramway Gas Station and our City Hall.
You can visit both buildings while here. The Tramway Gas Station now serves as a tourist information center and is located on the corner of Tramway and Palm Canyon Drive. You can read more about City Hall here. But you can also stop by for a visit too. It is located at the corner of Tahquitz Canyon Way and El Cielo Road, right next to the Palm Springs International Airport.
Charlie Farrell is also buried here. He was a film actor during the silent film era of the 1920s and 1930s. His show, the “Charlie Farrell Show” gave Palm Springs national attention. Farrell and his business partner Ralph Bellamy built the Palm Springs Racquet Club in 1934, which Frey also designed.
Desert Memorial Park is located at 31705 Da Vall Drive in Cathedral City and is the final resting place for over 40 celebs. It’s a short 15-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs. Similar to the grounds of the Welwood Murray Cemetery, visitors can expect to see a large cemetery with well-kept grounds and no upright headstones. The wide-open space of the grounds makes it a beautiful, calming place to stroll through and visit graves of famous people and their families.
Perhaps the most notable people buried here at Desert Memorial Park are Frank Sinatra, “Ol’ Blue Eyes” himself. He was a singer, actor and producer. He was one of the most influential people in the music industry of the 20th century. Ever heard the song “New York, New York?” That was him.
But there are many other interesting people to “meet” here. Here’s a list of just a few.
Sonny Bono was a singer/songwriter, musician, producer, actor and politician in Palm Springs. His popularity started with his duo with Cher and their hit “I Got You, Babe”. He was mayor of Palm Springs from 1998-1992. It was he who created the Palm Springs International Film Festival which is held in every year. Today. the film fest draws over 100,000 viewers.
Betty Hutton was an American stage, film, television actress, comedian, dancer and singer. She was involved in radio, appeared in several screen plays, and performed in various nightclubs throughout her career. She had many guest star appearances on television shows such as “Gunsmoke”. In 1959, Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball (“I Love Lucy”) granted Hutton her sitcom “The Betty Hutton Show” through their company Desilu Productions.
Jerry Fielding was a film composer, American jazz musician, arranger and band leader. He received many Oscar nominations for westerns, and crime action movies. His first box office hit came in 1969 with the release of “The Wild Bunch”. He wrote television scripts for “Mission Impossible” and “Star Trek”, just to name a few. He is also responsible for several sitcoms including “The Bionic Woman” and “Hogan’s Heroes”.
One of the most famous fast food restaurants in the US is McDonald’s. We have Maurice “Mac” McDonald and his brother Richard McDonald to thank for that. The two co-founded McDonald’s. They opened their first restaurant in San Bernardino in 1948 and started their franchise in 1953 with their first location being in Phoenix Arizona. McDonald is buried in Desert Memorial Park.
Visiting the graves of these and other famous people in the entertainment industry will show us how the entertainment industry has evolved over the years. These people were the starting point of the way we view entertainment today.
The Desert Memorial Park has several monuments that are worth viewing.
Here you will find the Korean War Memorial. This monument sits beside the Veterans Chapel and has a plaque that is ‘Dedicated to the men and women who made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of their country’ inscribed on it.
In the spirit of the Palm Springs area, the Desert Memorial Park erected a memorial for LGBT veterans. The monument was constructed on May 27, 2001 and sits on the Northeast corner of the cemetery. This small monument sits outside the Veterans Chapel in the middle of the cemetery. This monument is the first monument in the nation that honors LGBT veterans. The monument is a beautiful majestic eagle with a pink triangle in the middle. This, along with a plaque serves as a reminder of those men and women that were part of the LGBT community who fought and died for our country.
Assembly member Eduardo Garcia said it best when he stated “California must honor all the brave men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces.”
Every Memorial Day, the Palm Springs Cemetery District holds an event to observe and honor all the men and women who served and died for our country and the freedoms we enjoy every day. Join others to “Remember and Honor” our heroes. This is a way of bringing the community together to let them know that we have not and will never forget. There will be a keynote speaker, music, veterans’ recognition and honor guard salute.
Every October, Desert Memorial Park presents “Day of the Dead”. This is a celebration of those that have gone before us. It is a Mexican, Mexican/American festival that celebrates children’s souls that come down from heaven to reunite with their families on October 31st. They also believe that on November 1st and 2nd, the souls of adults pay us a visit.
Visiting cemeteries is not only a sign of respect and honor but it also serves as a way for us to keep the memory of those gone before us alive, so we may pass these memories onto future generations.
A cemetery is a place of reflection. You will be connecting in a tangible way with these people that led truly interesting lives. They had families, careers, dreams and aspirations, as I’m sure you do. It puts a mind to thinking that we should treasure every minute we have and strive to make the best of every day. A cemetery also makes you realize that time is short, and we should live every moment to the fullest.
Have you visited these or other cemeteries in the area? Tell us about it and show us your pictures @XPLORzine on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.