Tragedy and Triumph (Lake View Cemetery)

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I encounter a lot of cemeteries in my travels.  Some are large and formal, others not much more than abandoned family plots and everything in between.  All record evidence of tragedy – premature deaths: of infants, or by war, or accidents and so forth – and triumphs of family histories of long lives and marriages.  Every grave contains not only mortal remains but also interesting stories most of which are lost forever.

Lake View cemetery sits above Kahlotus on a hill and its occupants would be afforded a view of the lake that is if the lake still existed. This shows an inherent problem of naming a long-term feature after a short term one. The lake dried up years ago and its former bed has been converted to agriculture.


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The cemetery is well cared for by local residents. The grass is kept green and well mowed. All markers are flat which makes grooming easier. A large pine tree [one has been lost since this photo was taken] and a bench on which visitors can sit in the shade mark the upper boundary. The bench is the result of a senior project of one of Kahlotus high school 2013 graduates.

In Kahlotus I stopped by the recently reopened Susie’s Tavern.  The new owner (Lee Chism) purchased the building, which also contains the Community Center and offices for the cemetery.  He is renovating all of the spaces and has some connection with the local cemetery. I heard the following two stories in Susie’s:

1) The “Unknown” graves in Lake View cemetery are mostly those of Chinese laborers that were involved with digging the railroad tunnel near town. Each worker was charged one dollar to cover the cost of his casket in the event of death.  When the inevitable occurred the body was put in the casket and transported to the cemetery.  There the body was dumped out of the casket into a common grave.  The casket was returned and reused.  Eventually the grave would be covered, marked unknown, and a new hole would be dug.

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2) A year or so ago a local old timer died.  He had lived in Kahlotus his entire life and his parents’ decades before that. His remains (in casket) were brought to Kahlotus by a Tri Cities funeral parlor for interment. The committee that runs the cemetery would not allow him to be buried because he had not paid the $200 for a plot. The funeral parlor then took the casket to a local church until things got straightened out. The deceased’s family wanted to have a wake so they went to the church, removed the body from the casket, put it in the back of a pick up truck and drove off to the party where the deceased overlooked the proceedings.  The next day things were straightened out at the cemetery.  However, the backhoe broke down so the grave could not be dug.  Parts were ordered.  The family got tired of waiting, had another party while they dug the grave by hand and completed the job themselves.

I have not been able to document these two stories, however, the first is all too tragically plausible, and the second is very recent and is supported by the rich character of many residents that I have been fortunate enough to meet.


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This article has 3 comments

  1. John

    You always surprise when you treat us with these entries. I found your previous discussion of trees particularly meaningful (I also liked the first and last photos most), and this one perhaps even more so. Finding beauty and meaning in this almost forgotten place through photos and stories of almost forgotten lives is poignant. I find the style and presentation of your photos particularly appropriate; an almost timeless feel to the images. Thank you for sharing.

  2. susan huber

    I love your stories, you seem to bring everything to life…instead of looking at cemetaries from now on, I will wonder why some are marked and some unmarked. The history in these places are not well known to many and I welcome knowing something when I see your images. Thank you!

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