(Recycled post – It’s been a fast year, hasn’t it?)
With all the coverage of Michael Jackson’s burial at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, I was reminded of my trek exactly 3 years ago (September 2, 2006) in search of Nance O’Neil’s final resting place.
Born Gertrude Lamson on Oct. 8, 1874 in Oakland, California, Nance lived a full and accomplished life in theatre and film and died on February 7, 1965 at the USA Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. She was 91 years old.
Nance O’Neil was cremated at Fern Cliff Mortuary/Crematory, Hartsdale, New York. A little over a month later her ashes were shipped to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif. and placed in Niche #10022 of the “Columbarium of the Sanctuaries” in The Great Mausoleum on March 10, 1965. This is the same Niche where her husband’s ashes (Alfred Scott Devereux Hickman) had been placed 34 years previous. After my visit I added images and remarks at her Find A Grave site.
The Great Mausoleum is absolutely stunning in its beauty. While inside I looked with awe at the incredible stain glass depiction of The Last Supper, below which Michael Jackson will lay for all eternity. It is not more than 25 feet away from the wall of cremations which contains Nance’s ashes.
Sadly, Nance O’Neil’s name does not appear and there is nothing to indicate that this is her final resting place other than an old 3×5 lined card documenting the arrival of her ashes from Fern Cliff Mortuary with instructions to place them in Niche #10022. I had to seek this information from the Records Office.
The Records Clerk, once getting the card from the archivist, had never heard of Nance O’Neil, which didn’t surprise me. (I decided not to tell her the connection with Lizzie Borden and only said my “great aunt” had been a famous stage actress). They were able to tell me nothing further as the only information they had was on the card. Being Nance’s “great niece”, I was told her location within the vast cemetery and given a pass to present to the guard at the Great Mausoleum. He actually left his post to help me and my son find our way to the “Columbine of the Sanctuaries” within the building. (I have to wonder what enhanced security may be in place now that the King of Pop joins all the other notables in that exquisite structure).
The fact Nance’s name does not appear on the bronze plating might possibly have been Nance’s own wish. I have never searched for nor seen a copy of Nance’s Will or if, like her once-upon-a-time friend, Lizzie Borden, she left instructions for the disposition of her remains. But someone (perhaps her younger sister?) saw to it that Nance would rest into eternity with her husband – someone with whom she surely must have had great affection. I believe both Nance and Alfred were bi-sexual and a marriage of convenience turned into one of mutual respect and caring and even love.