belle passi cemetery
A fine pioneer cemetery graced by a gilded, life-size statue of a soldier attired circa 1865, but erected in 1911, dedicated to the “memory of our comrades.” The “planting” of the flags on Memorial Day, is a major occasion at this highly active cemetery. Plantings are especially nice with a succession of daffodils, peonies, and Asiatic lilies providing seasonal displays, presided over by a full-time gardener—unheard of in the pioneer cemetery business—with a five-bay maintenance shed. Five bays, I kid you not. A new mausoleum has been built across the road and there are new flat-stone sections at the edges of the uprights. All told, the cemetery controls 28 acres, of which about ten are in play, so to speak.

Because we’re Woodburn aficionados, we stop by Belle Passi now and again; and every time we’ve been there of late, there’s been an elderly couple in golf carts wheeling through the cemetery and parking for stretches over by the mausoleum. I have no idea where they come from or what they do at the mausoleum. Perhaps they’re merely visiting dearly departeds, but I like to think they’re over there necking. They’ve escaped from the old peoples’ home for a few.

Belle Passi, taking its name—under a variety of spellings—from an extinct community at this location, is the pioneer cemetery of record for Woodburn, one of the lower valley’s older and more important centers. Heading west, Belle Passi Rd. T’s at Boones Ferry Rd. As Boones Ferry passes through Woodburn it becomes Settlemeier Ave., a main street through the town’s finest residential neighborhood, which includes the stalwart Settlemeier house. One can only imagine the stately funeral processions out this graceful promenade to the elegant cemetery. Woodburn remains an important, and more importantly, an interesting town.

It has always been an agricultural center and continues so today; although today the farmers tend to be Mexican immigrants, and downtown Woodburn is a buzz of Mexican entrepreneurship harboring the best Mexican food this side of Madras (you think I’m kidding?). We stop their for lunch often. There are Mexican graves here, but little of the exuberance one associated with Mexican gravesites; for that one has to go to Hilltop Cemetery outside Independence.

If Mexicans weren’t enough, the Russian True Believers live nearby, and stopping at the Woodburn Goodwill is an international ethnic experience. We heartily recommend it. There are Russians in Belle Passi, too, but, like the Mexicans, their best display is elsewhere. In their case, the Masonic Cemetery outside Gervais.

Directions:

On the south side of Belle Passi Rd., which runs east from Hwy 99E, just south of Woodburn.
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