gethsemani catholic cemetery
Just getting to Gethsemani is an adventure. It’s off SE Stevens St., which does meander into the slopes of Mt. Scott; but odds on you’re going to approach it from Sunnyside, which means that just before you get to Gethsemani you’ll have to navigate the traffic circle at the entrance to New Hope Church. Inside the circle is a larger-than-life-size bronze statue of an eagle, which presumably has something to do with the church, although, for the life of me, I can’t think what.

Anyway, as you get past the circle, Sunnyside Chapel of the Chimes (a “must see”) is on your left and Gethsemani climbs the hill on the starboard. It has a scattering of trees, which will someday grow, but in the meantime it’s pretty much a six or seven-acre open field, as all stones are supine. There is a mausoleum at the top of the hill and a few thick crosses marking the quadrants and one “memorial” announcing “The peaceful resting place of Vietnamese Catholics.” That’s the reason to visit here. It’s a gold mine. Most of the markers are in Vietnamese, which is Greek to me; but many of them are embellished with the image of the deceased, either under glass or laser etched.

All these stones are found towards the top of the hill. Begun in 1959, it’s one of the newer cemeteries in the region and one of the very few that have been able to strictly maintain the no-upright rule. I don’t recall seeing anyone get an exemption. It’s a subtle cemetery, but rewarding.

You’ve read often in here about laser etchings, and if you’ve been to a cemetery recently, you’ve probably seen them. They’re part of the fuel of the “tombstone revolution.” Laser etching has opened up undreamed of realms of graphic design. How well they’ll hold up after a hundred years is still an unknown, but in the short run they can be spectacular. They can also look like something painted on black velvet and sold out of the back of a van on 82nd Ave. I haven’t seen Elvis yet, but I have seen a unicorn. The Russians have a particular fondness for etching the deceased’s likeness on the recto and a highly romantic scene on the verso of their stones, Multnomah Falls, for example; but many ethnic groups like to indulge themselves with laser etchings, including that famous ethnic group, young white boys.

Directions:

At 11666 SE Stevens Rd. a few blocks from Sunnyside Rd. close to I-205; just past the outré, brass eagle festooned round-about in front of the New Hope mega-church.
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