Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cemetery Focus: Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California

If you are like me, wandering around cemeteries looking for the graves of people of various levels of notoriety sounds like a pleasant afternoon. OK, so it's not everyone's idea of fun, but I know there are others out there who do this, so I will be frequently featuring specific cemeteries to make visiting the final resting places of your heroes and idols a little easier and more enjoyable.

First I must say that the most important thing to remember is to be respectful to the grounds and to others who may be visiting loved ones. Most of these cemeteries are still active, and it is always possible that there will be services while you are there.

The first cemetery I am featuring is Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park located at 10621 Victory Blvd. in North Hollywood, California, within about a mile of the airport in Burbank. There are probably a dozen other more significant cemeteries in the Los Angeles area, but this one is a hidden gem. The grounds are sprawling, and the celebrity to non-celebrity ratio is not very high, so you will want to make sure you know where you are headed.

Most notable is the Portal of the Folded Wing Shrine to Aviation at the very back of the cemetery. This actually used to be the main entrance, but the gate is now only open one day a month, so you will have to enter at the current entrance on Victory Blvd. Buried here are a number of aviation pioneers, including Charles E. Taylor, one of the Wright Brothers assistants, John B. Moisant, who built the first metal airplane, and W.B. Kinner, who built Amelia Earhart's first plane. In front of the structure is a space shuttle memorial for the victims of both the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

There are also a number of celebrities buried here, mostly older Hollywood stars. such as Oliver Hardy, Willie Best, Curly Joe DeRita,  Criswell (Charles King), Gail Russell, and dozens of character actors and bit players from the Golden Age of Hollywood. for a comprehensive list of those interred, as well as specific locations for each person, go to

Although celebrities are not actively being interred here anymore, this is still a fully functioning and active cemetery. As I mentioned, it is very large, and my visit was very quiet and uneventful with just a few other people visiting while I was there (it was  a weekday during the day). The only real activity was the typical groundskeeping that one would expect at a cemetery of this size. I had directions to the locations I wanted to visit, so I didn't stop into the office, but I'm sure they would assist you if you are looking for someone in particular. This one is an underrated and pleasant gem.

Please check my companion blog They Passed This Way for current celebrity obituaries and burial information.