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Memories: The Forest Hill Cemetery

Submitted by Editor on April 9, 2010 – 4:40 am | Print or Email »One Comment

by Julie Majkowski Thomas

If we squinted our eyes we could tell that the chapel doors were open. Not just open, but unattended! In over 40 years of living on the Eastside Hill, the doors of the chapel in Forest Hill Cemetery had never been left open like that. We gathered up bikes, big wheels, and strollers and made a neighborhood parade down the cemetery lane toward that tempting, and rather scary, open door.

As we made our way we all had the same thought. Would we dare to take a peak inside? Ever since I was a little girl living on Summer Street I had imagined what could lie inside of that seemingly innocent-looking chapel. My friends and I had pretended to see through the stained-glass windows, telling each other stories of the open coffins, bones, and ghosts that we saw inside.

The Forest Hill Cemetery hasn’t always been a creepy place for me. For most of my life I have seen it as a refuge. As a kid I loved to make a sandwich and wrap it in a bandana, pretending to ride my bike to a foreign land for exciting adventures. The big rock on the hill that overlooks the city of Eau Claire was a perfect spot to munch my sandwich and dream of the places that I would visit someday. Years later I would bring my own little daughters to that rock. It was a great milestone when they could climb to the top by themselves.

As an adult the Forest Hill Cemetery has been a retreat from the craziness of life. A walk through the shady lanes clears my mind and decisions become easier to make. If I am alone, I like to sing as I walk. There is a place on the back hill where I imagine that the gravestones are my audience. I’ll turn and give those folks a little concert. Perhaps I’ll belt out a bit of a Broadway show tune. The audience is always appreciative, and rarely judgmental.

As our neighborhood posse neared the open doors of the chapel, we had an unusual sense of quiet about us. Would we be brave enough to open those doors a bit more so we could see inside? We stood there for a bit, feeling the cool air filtering out of the chapel. Ghosts would thrive in that coolness. And what was that smell? Earthy, wormy decay? From the steps I looked down at five little faces. “Open it,” one of them whispered. I tentatively reached out my hand for the door. I looked inside that cool, dark sanctuary. Then I laughed! I threw that door open with a whoosh. Our minds hoped for crypts and decay, cobwebs and ghostly spirits, but what we saw was a tidy array of lawn mowers and yard equipment. We hooted and hollered all the way home and couldn’t wait to tell the rest of the neighbors.

I’m happy to have lived near the Forest Hill Cemetery for most of my life. When I’m laid to rest there, I hope someone will sing me a little concert, or have a good laugh with the neighbor kids. I’ll be singing and laughing right along with them.

Image by DeadManTalking

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One Comment »

  • Ruth Anderson says:

    I also grew up on Summer St. at the point where it connects to Huebsch Blvd. My parents built a house there in about 1920.
    My friends and I walked through the cemetery on our way to/from EC Senior high night or day. We’d get scared when we’d see headlights flashing on tombstones and run like the dickens from the Emery St. entrance to the Huebsch Blvd. exit. We used to go through the cemetary and then down the Third Ward Steps for a shortcut to downtown EC to shop.

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