Tag Archives: Active cemeteries

Mount Loretto Cemetery

Mount Loretto Cemetery, May 2017 (Mary French)

In 1908, the New York Tribune published the following verse from a poem entitled “A Visit to the Old Home”:

I stood within the graveyard, boys,
Among loved ones at rest;
And peered within the marble vault
Where lay our friends the best.
The Reverend Father Dougherty
And “Father John” Drumgoole,
Whose minds and hands both worked and planned
To teach the Golden Rule.

The Tribune reprinted this stanza from the December 1908 issue of the Mount Loretto Messenger, the class journal of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin of Mount Loretto, which was dedicated that month to the 25th anniversary of the Mission’s opening on the south shore of Staten Island. The Mission of the Immaculate Virgin was founded in 1883 by Father John C. Drumgoole as a facility to house and train homeless boys. Operated by the Archdiocese of New York, the main buildings were located north of present-day Hylan Boulevard and west of Sharrott Avenue. Girls were admitted beginning in 1897 and lived in St. Elizabeth’s, a Victorian building on the south side of Hylan Avenue.

This snippet from a 1907 map shows the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin complex and the Mount Loretto Cemetery (arrow)

By 1947, the facility at Mount Loretto spread over 700 acres and had 42 buildings—including the Church of Sts. Joachim and Anne— that housed 700 boys, 360 girls, 85 Franciscan nuns, and five priests. By that time, it had been the home of over 50,000 children and was the largest childcare institution in the U.S. As foster care emerged and orphanages declined, Mount Loretto transitioned in the 1970s. The Mount Loretto campus, much reduced in size, is now run by Catholic Charities of Staten Island and is home to numerous educational, athletic, and service programs that aid children and teens, the disabled, and those living with addiction and mental or physical challenges. 

The poem quoted above was written by Thomas J. Reynolds, one of the former “mission kids,” and describes a visit to the cemetery at Mount Loretto. The small graveyard is located in a clearing in the woods at the back of the Mount Loretto grounds, down a road east of the main buildings. The earliest known interments here were husband and wife Louis and Louise De Comeau in 1885. The De Comeaus were a wealthy local family that made generous contributions to the Mission. Their daughter Yolande donated $100,000 for the construction of a home for blind girls on the property. She later joined the Sisters of St. Francis and became Superioress of the motherhouse at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin in 1900. 

Mausoleum erected in 1899 for interment of Father Drumgoole’s remains (SI Advance)

Father Drumgoole was buried in Mount Loretto Cemetery when he died of pneumonia in 1888. In 1899  his body was moved from his grave to a mausoleum built by his close friend and successor as head of the Mission, Rev. James J. Dougherty. Rev. Dougherty is also laid to rest in the tomb, which stands on a gentle rise in the center of the cemetery. Msgr. Mallick J. Fitzpatrick, who headed the Mission from 1907 until he died in 1936, is interred beside his predecessors.

Mount Loretto Cemetery is the final resting place for children who died in the facility and for alumni raised at the Mission who died after they went out into the world but were returned to their old home for burial. Notable among these is U.S. Marine Angel Mendez, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Mendez died saving the life of his platoon commander Ronald Castille, who would later become the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Obituary of 10-year-old William Mulligan, who died at the Mount Loretto boy’s home in 1902 and was buried in Mount Loretto Cemetery

Dozens of rows of simple, flat headstones at Mount Loretto Cemetery mark the graves of the Franciscan nuns who taught at the Mission. Among them is the grave of Sister Mary Angela Flanagan, a Superioress of St. Elizabeth’s, the girl’s home at Mount Loretto. She died at age 40 of burns she received when candle flames ignited her robes as she knelt before a shrine for prayers on a December night in 1898. The Mount Loretto Cemetery is still actively used for interments of Sisters of St. Francis who were formerly connected with the Mount Loretto campus. One of the most recent burials is Sister Mary Beatrice Campbell, who entered the Order of St. Francis in 1928 and taught at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin from 1937 to 1945. She died in 2015 at age 105.

Flat headstones mark the graves of the Sisters of St. Francis interred at Mount Loretto Cemetery (SI Advance)

Today the old graveyard at Mount Loretto is maintained by staff of Resurrection Cemetery, which is located just east of the Mount Loretto campus and was created in 1977 from a large swathe of land transferred from the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin. Few know of the cemetery’s existence at Mount Loretto; no signs point the way to this historic burial ground beyond the modern school buildings and athletic fields. And those who stumble across are out of luck; it is protected by an iron fence and gate that is kept locked with a “no trespassing” sign warning away intruders.

But the cemetery does have occasional visitors. Each September, alumni return to Mount Loretto to reunite and reminisce on the grounds of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin. The cemetery is a favorite spot for the former “mission kids” and their families to visit on these annual Alumni Days, offering them a time to reflect on the hallowed ground where the Mission’s founder is laid to rest, along with others who served at the Mission or were raised there.

This 2012 aerial view shows the Mount Loretto complex today, north of Hylan Blvd. Arrow identifies location of the cemetery, shown in greater detail below (NYCityMap)
2012 aerial view of Mount Loretto Cemetery (NYCityMap)

Sources: Robinson’s 1907 Atlas of the Borough of Richmond, City of New York, Pl 21; Children’s Shepherd: The Story of John Christopher Drumgoole (Burton 1954); Realms of History: The Cemeteries of Staten Island (Salmon 2006); “The Death of Mrs. De Comeau,” New York Herald, Dec 15, 1885; “Father Drumgoole’s Funeral,” New York Herald, April_3_1888; “These Boys Get Along,” The Sun, May 11, 1890; “Nun at Prayer Mortally Burned,” New York Herald, Dec 7, 1898; “Father Drumgoole’s Body Moved,” New York Tribune, Dec 1, 1899; “Death Notices,” Richmond County Advance, Sep 6, 1902; “Its Silver Jubilee,” New York Tribune, Dec 10, 1908; “Msgr Fitzpatrick Buried on Monday,” The Tablet, Dec 12, 1936; “A Push to Get Staten Island War Hero the Medal of Honor,” Staten Island Advance, Mar 16, 2009; “Sister Mary Beatrice Campbell, O.S.F.,” Catholic New York, Jul 9, 2015; “’Mission Kids for Life’ Reunite and Reminisce at Mount Loretto,” Staten Island Advance, Sep 24 2017; “Mount Loretto” Staten Island Advance, May 15, 2018; Hidden Staten Island: Exploring the Secrets of Mt. Loretto

Flushing Cemetery

Flushing Cemetery, 2007. The cemetery’s floral and arboreal beauty memorialize Flushing’s history as a horticultural center (Terry Ballard-Creative Commons)

In the mid-19th century, the rapid growth of the population at Flushing, Queens, made it necessary to create a local cemetery large enough to accommodate citizens of all denominations for generations to come. The Flushing Cemetery Association formed in 1853, with trustees selected to manage the project. They purchased 21 acres about two miles southeast of the village, in the vicinity of Kissena Lake. With additional land purchases, Flushing Cemetery grew to encompass 75 acres on the south side of today’s 46th Avenue, east of Pigeon Meadow Road.

Flushing Cemetery’s original 21 acres are shown in this detail from an 1859 map; additional lands were acquired to expand the cemetery to its current 75 acres

Since its inception, Flushing Cemetery has been known for its beautiful grounds. Flushing was America’s premiere horticultural center throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries and the cemetery’s founding and succeeding trustees were mindful of this connection. They hired landscape architects and gardeners who created spacious lawns and gentle grades with a multitude of trees, ornaments, shrubbery, rare plants, and flowers. Dubbed a “wonderland of a million blooms” for the multi-colored spectacle of flowers present throughout the summer months, Flushing Cemetery has long been one of the most attractive and well-kept resting places in the metropolitan area.

Adding to the cemetery’s picturesque beauty is the Spanish-style administration building inside the entrance gate on 46th Avenue. Built in 1912, it is of light brown ashlar stone with tile roofs and consists of an office building and a chapel. Just beyond the administration building is a collection of historical landmarks including several soldiers’ memorials and a massive World Trade Center monument that was erected by the cemetery’s board of directors in 2002. Also here is the Elliman Memorial Fountain. Originally erected in downtown Flushing in 1896 in honor of the philanthropist and temperance activist Mary Lawrence Elliman, the fountain was moved to the cemetery in 1907.

Older areas of the cemetery feature large plots of early families of Flushing, College Point, Whitestone, and Bayside, while newer sections are distinguished by tombstones featuring Greek and Chinese inscriptions of more recent immigrant communities. Since the early 1900s Flushing Cemetery also has been a major burial place for African Americans of Queens, Brooklyn, and Harlem. This is in stark contrast to the cemetery’s origins as an exclusively “white” cemetery—in 1864 its trustees passed a resolution “that all applications for interment of colored persons in the Flushing Cemetery be refused” and their prohibition against the burial of local people of African American and Native American ancestry was widely reported in local and national newspapers. These policies were lifted towards the end of the 1800s, allowing people of all races and ethnicities to acquire graves and family plots at Flushing Cemetery.

Louis Armstrong’s gravestone at Flushing Cemetery with the original bronze trumpet that was attached before it was stolen in the early 1980s. A new trumpet sculpted of white marble was installed atop his marker in 1984 (Louisiana Digital Library)

In what may be a case of divine retribution against the racist practices of the cemetery’s founding fathers, the most famous individual buried at Flushing Cemetery is black. Superstar trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong was laid to rest here in 1971 after he died at his home in Corona, Queens, at age 71. Since then thousands of fans have visited his gravesite, leaving mementos at his tombstone.

Among other notables interred at Flushing Cemetery are State Supreme Court justice and founder of Queens College Charles S. Colden; financier and statesman Bernard Baruch; restauranteur Vincent Sardi, Sr.; Eugene Bullard, one of the world’s first black military pilots; Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., the prominent pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and father of U.S. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.; and jazz musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Shavers, and Hazel Scott.

Today Flushing Cemetery is the final resting place for approximately 45,000 people of diverse backgrounds. With over 300 interments each year, it still actively serves the present-day community while preserving the area’s historical and horticultural past.

The Consul General of France in New York lays a wreath at Eugene Bullard’s grave in Flushing Cemetery in 2021. Bullard, a native of Columbus, Georgia, was one of the world’s first black military pilots. He flew for the French Army Air Corps during WWI and was a spy for the French Resistance during WWII (Consulate General of France in New York)
A view of Flushing Cemetery, Jan 2016 (Mary French)
2018 aerial view of Flushing Cemetery (NYCThen&Now)

Sources: Topographical Map of the Counties of Kings and Queens, New York (Walling 1859); History of Queens County (Munsell 1882); The Leonard Manual of the Cemeteries of New York and Vicinity (1901); The Story of Flushing Cemetery (Stuart 1945); Flushing in the Civil War Era (Seyfried 2001); “Dedication of a New Cemetery at Flushing,” New York Times, Sep 2 1853; “Trouble at Flushing with the Colored Dead,” New York Tribune, June 26, 1866; “The Death of Mr. John Mingo,” Brooklyn Times Union, Nov 6, 1873; “Picturesque Past of Flushing Town,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct 1, 1899; “Beautiful Flushing Cemetery,” Brooklyn Times Union, Jul 13, 1901; “Plea for Preservation of Monument,” Brooklyn Times Union, Sep 14, 1907; “Memorial Moved,” Brooklyn Times Union, Dec 13, 1907; “Church and Chapel Among Week’s Building Permits,” Brooklyn Times Union, Sep 5 1912; “Flushing,” The Standard Union, Aug 28, 1921; “Trumpet Restored,” Daily News, Oct 17, 1984; “A Memorial Etched in Mourning,” Newsday, Feb 14, 2002; Commemorative Ceremony for the 60th Death Anniversary of Veteran Eugene Bullard (Consulate General of France in New York)

Resurrection Cemetery

Dorothy Day’s grave at Resurrection Cemetery, 2017 (Dorothy Day Guild)

When Pope Francis made history in 2015 by becoming the first pontiff to speak before a joint session of the United States Congress, he lauded four Americans as examples of dignity, justice, and service to God: President Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Catholic monk Thomas Merton, and Catholic social activist Dorothy Day, the last of whom is buried in Resurrection Cemetery on Staten Island. Day was laid to rest in this Roman Catholic burial ground in 1980, just a few months after it opened on the Island’s south shore. 

Resurrection Cemetery is noteworthy as the last major cemetery developed in the city’s five boroughs, created by the Archdiocese of New York as the supply of new graves in Staten Island’s older Catholic cemeteries diminished. Responding to this need for more burial space, in 1977 the Archdiocese acquired 127 acres of land from the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin of Mount Loretto in the Pleasant Plains section. The New York City Council, which for decades had prohibited the creation of new cemeteries within its limits, approved the Archdiocese’s plans in this case because the land was already tax-exempt. Resurrection Cemetery is divided into two parcels on either side of Sharrott Avenue, with 84 acres remaining to be developed for future gravesites.

Obituary of firefighter Carl Molinaro, one of many 9/11 victims buried at Resurrection Cemetery

Since its opening, more than 42,000 Catholics have been interred in graves, mausoleum crypts, and cremation niches at Resurrection Cemetery. Among them are at least two dozen victims who died in the September 11 terror attacks at the World Trade Center site and hundreds of infants laid to rest in the Garden of Angels section for children. Also at Resurrection Cemetery is mobster William Cutolo, Sr., whose headstone marked an empty grave in Section 37 until his body was found in 2008—nine years after his murder. Resurrection Cemetery currently averages over 1,000 interments per year, making it one of the city’s busiest burial places.

Stillborn infants are buried in the Garden of Angels section at Resurrection Cemetery, Dec 2020 (SI Advance)

Dorothy Day is interred in Section 10 of the east parcel of Resurrection Cemetery. A native New Yorker raised in the Episcopal Church, her conversion to Catholicism came in the 1920s after she moved to a beach cottage on Staten Island, not far from her burial place. After her conversion, Day co-founded the Catholic Worker movement and helped establish “houses of hospitality” in New York City and farms to house the poor. The movement quickly spread, and today there are nearly 200 Catholic Worker communities worldwide.

Following her death on November 29, 1980, Catholic Church historian David J. O’Brien called Dorothy Day “the most important, interesting, and influential figure in the history of American Catholicism.” In 2000, Cardinal John O’Connor formally requested the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome consider Day’s canonization and she was declared a Servant of God, the first step towards sainthood. And just this year a new Staten Island Ferry boat was named in her honor; it is scheduled to be ready for passenger service on November 8, 2022, the 125th anniversary of Day’s birth.

A view of Resurrection Cemetery, May 2017 (Mary French)
A 2018 aerial view of the two parcels of Resurrection Cemetery on Sharrott Avenue in Pleasant Plains, Staten Island (NYCThen&Now)

Sources: Resurrection Cemetery; Realms of History: The Cemeteries of Staten Island (Salmon 2006); “Catholics Eye a Site on S.I. as Place for New Cemetery,” New York Daily News, Oct 16, 1977; “Catholic Cemetery on S.I. Approved,” New York Times, Nov 29, 1977; “Cooke Names New Cemetery,” New York Daily News, Dec 31, 1978;  “Death Notices,” New York Daily News, Oct 10, 2001;“Awaiting a Burial, This Time an Actual One,” New York Times, Oct 8, 2008; “S.I. Public Administrator Provides Dignified Burial for 9 Stillborn Infants,” Staten Island Advance, Dec 22, 2020; “The Pilgrimage of Dorothy Day,” Commonweal, Dec 19, 1980; “A Pilgrimage to Dorothy Day’s New York,” Aleteia, Nov 19, 2021; “Meet the Dorothy Day, the Latest Addition to New York’s Staten Island Ferry Fleet,” American Magazine, Sep 20, 2022; The Dorothy Day Guild

Polish National Catholic Cemetery

A view of the Polish National Catholic Cemetery, Apr 2017 (Mary French)

The Polish National Catholic Cemetery on Willowbrook Road in the Graniteville section of Staten Island is the parish cemetery of Heart of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church of Bayonne, New Jersey. Other than its location, this cemetery’s Staten Island/New York City associations are limited—most of those laid to rest here lived and worked in New Jersey—but it is of interest due to its connection to an important period in Polish American history.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Polish National Church, Bayonne, New Jersey, ca 1914 (Bayonne Public Library)

During the late 19th century, many Polish immigrants were unhappy with the Roman Catholic Church in the United States for several reasons, including an absence of a bishop of Polish birth or descent, lack of services in the Polish language, and disputes over ownership of church properties. These resentments smoldered into open revolt in many parishes, mainly in the Eastern states, and led to the founding of the Polish National Catholic Church in 1897. This independent Catholic denomination, headquartered in Scranton, Pennsylvania, comprised about 20,000 Poles who left the Roman Catholic Church. 

The Polish National Catholic Cemetery on Willowbrook Road was established during this time of conflict. In 1898, Bayonne Poles founded the Roman Catholic parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; shortly after it was incorporated, a schism in the parish resulted in a group breaking off to incorporate as St. Mary Carmelite Roman Catholic Polish Church. A dramatic struggle over church property ensued between the two corporations, including several church raids and a lawsuit that was decided in favor of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel delegation. In the aftermath, St. Mary Carmelite  became a parish of the Polish National Catholic Church and reorganized under the name Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This snippet from a 1907 map shows the Polish National Catholic Cemetery—identified here as St. Mary’s R.C. Church property—on Willowbrook Road

On March 14, 1902, the parish—still incorporated at that time as St. Mary Carmelite Roman Catholic Polish Church—paid $1,200 for the tract of land on Willowbrook Road for “its successors and assigns forever for cemetery purposes.”  Today the half-acre burial ground is enclosed by a chain-link fence that separates it from Lake Cemetery and Rehoboth Pentecostal Church on its north side and a housing development on its south side. The well-kept site is still an active parish cemetery of Heart of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church.

The Polish National Catholic Cemetery and surrounding properties in 1951
2012 aerial view of the Polish National Catholic Church Cemetery

View more photos of Polish National Catholic Cemetery

Sources: Robinson’s 1907 Atlas of the Borough of Richmond Pl 6; 1951 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Staten Island (Borough Of Richmond), Richmond County, New York; Richmond County Conveyances, Liber 289, p469-470, Richmond County Clerks Office; Bayonne Old and New (Sinclair 1940); Handbook of Denominations in the United States (Mead 1995); “Polish National Catholic Church,” Encyclopedia Britannica; “Church in Court,” The Jersey City News, Nov 19, 1901; “Parishioners Raid Church,” Passaic Daily News, Oct 23, 1903; “Louis Kubizna,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), Nov 23, 1926; “Joseph Jaworoski,” The News (Paterson, New Jersey), May 19 1954; “Michael Archdeacon,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), Nov 18, 1968; “Stanley Senkoski,” The Central New Jersey Home News, Feb 7, 1974; “Adolph S. Mager,” Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghampton NY), Nov 28, 1992; “Julia Obarowski,” Asbury Park Press, Apr 4, 2002; “Helen Bilinski,” The Jersey Journal, Nov 15, 2010; “Florence Vila,” The Jersey Journal , Dec 21, 2017; “Our Memorial Day Observance,” Heart of Jesus PNCC, June 2011

St. Joseph’s Cemetery

A view of monuments in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, April 2017 (Mary French)

Each spring and fall, about 150 people from the parish of St. Joseph-St. Thomas participate in clean-up operations at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in the Rossville section of Staten Island. Including members of the Boy Scouts, Knights of Columbus, parish sports teams, and other groups, the crew clears graves of underbrush and ivy, pours fresh dirt on old graves that have sunken in, and spreads grass seeds to fight erosion. Putting belief into action, the people of St. Joseph-St. Thomas volunteer their time and energy to maintain a safe and respectful burial place where family and friends can visit the graves of their loved ones.

This snippet from an 1874 map shows St. Joseph’s Church on Washington St (now Poplar Ave) and their parish cemetery one block away on Glen Ave (now Barry St)

In keeping their cemetery in good condition, the people of St. Joseph-St. Thomas are also preserving the legacy of their parish. St. Joseph’s Church was founded in 1848, by Father Mark Murphy, pastor of St. Peter’s Church (the first Catholic church on Staten Island), when he celebrated Mass for 58 Catholics in a house on Rossville Avenue as a mission of St. Peter’s. In 1851, a small chapel dedicated to St. Joseph was completed on what is now Poplar Avenue. In 1855, St. Joseph’s became an official parish—the third oldest of Staten Island’s parishes after St. Peter’s and St. Mary’s. In 1862, St. Joseph’s purchased land for a cemetery about one block away from their church, on the south side of today’s Barry Street. Now comprising 2.5 acres, St. Joseph’s Cemetery is the final resting place of over 1,000 Catholics, including many veterans of the American Civil War, Spanish-American War, First World War, Second World War, Korean War, and Vietnam era.

A 1903 newspaper clipping about the death of Thomas R. Murphy, who is interred at St. Joseph’s Cemetery

In 1959, the parish of St. Joseph merged with St. Thomas the Apostle in Pleasant Plains to become the parish of St. Joseph-St. Thomas. Both St. Joseph and St. Thomas continue to offer services and their combined parish is one of the largest and most active on Staten Island. And burials are still made at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, which is operated by the parish and cared for by its community. Cardinal John O’Connor commented on the community’s dynamism at the parish’s 150th anniversary celebration in 1998. “This is truly a living parish,” he said. “It is so important that what you leave to those who will follow you is at least equal to what you have received from those who went before.”

These two Hungarian markers at St. Joseph’s Cemetery may mark the graves of immigrants who worked in brickyards that operated in the nearby Kreischerville section (now Charleston) of Staten Island during the 19th and early 20th centuries (Mary French)
2018 aerial view showing St. Joseph’s Church and parish cemetery in Rossville (NYCThen&Now)

View more photos of St. Joseph Cemetery

Sources: Beers 1874 Atlas of Staten Island, Sec 23; Fairchild Cemetery Manual (1910); Realms of History: The Cemeteries of Staten Island (Salmon 2006); “Killed at the Crossing,” Richmond County Advance, Dec 12, 1903; “‘150 Years New,’” Catholic New York, Jul 2, 1998; Denis P. McGowan, comment on “The Ruins of Rossville,” Forgotten New York, Nov. 15, 2015