rose city cemetery
Some cemeteries are less than they appear. This one is more. From the outset it looks like a flat, rectangular, well-packed cemetery—which it is—organized into neat rows, and for the most part devoid of literature on the markers. One entire side of the cemetery is given over to loculi and niches for aboveground interments. Ostentation much less on this side of the river compared to the monuments at River View. There are Terwilligers in both cemeteries, for example, but there’s considerable contrast between sites. Exception to the rule is a cluster of low-rise sepulchers in the center of the cemetery devoted primarily to Gypsy graves. How do I know that? Because Frank Ellis’s (1905-1966) tomb is emblazoned with the proclamation: “King of the Gypsies.” Nearby other Gypsy names abound: Ephrem, George, Ristick, Stevens, and more Ellises; and often their stones are detailed with cameos under glass. In a survey done in Washington State a few years back all the Gypsies queried listed themselves as used-car salesmen. What they lack in prominence during life is made up for by their stature during death.

The Gypsies are not alone here, though, and there are a number of prominent Greek and Russian graves, as well; and towards the rear is the separate and unique Japanese Cemetery. Furthermore, the “ethnic” graves are likely to have photos encased in glass of the dearly departed; so that, while the place may be shy on literature, the visuals aren’t bad. African-Americans reputedly use this cemetery heavily, as well, though, unlike the Gypsies, say, the blacks are less inclined to put their image out in public.
Do not cut your visit short after visiting the Gypsies, as the cemetery goes on seemingly forever towards the rear; and like many other cemeteries, it’s at the fringes where the newest and most interesting graves tend to lie, including that for Jack (1913-2000) and Thelma (1920- ) Dempsey. Aside from the fact that there are at least two other Jack Dempsey’s buried in the lower Willamette Valley, this Jack’s headstone is remarkable in having some of the more elaborate laser etchings in the valley. Above Thelma’s name is a typical Oregon scene of river, forest, and mountains; but Jack’s side carries Jack among the tools of his trade: printing presses and type boxes. Keep an eye on this area; it’s where the future lives.

As surprising as the cemetery, perhaps, is the cozy quality of life in outer Fremont and the surrounding Beaumont neighborhood. If you’ve “done” the rest of Portland, this place awaits.

Directions:

Main entrance to Rose City is off SE 57th Ave. at Fremont.
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