A Visit to Woodland Cemetery

by Nadine Hofmann


I visited Woodland Cemetery this past November 11th, 2010 on Veteran's Day (as well as Holy Sepulchre Cemetery ) by myself in spite of the warnings that it was unsafe to go alone. It was a perfect sunny mellow weekday to visit. Very little traffic and the people out and about were enjoying the unusually warm day. Everyone on the street that I needed to ask directions from was helpful and pleasant. (The directions to 10th Street I got online were not accurate because some streets are one-way , so I was going around in circles.) Although I was born in Irvington and my dad was born in Newark, my family left the area many moons ago and I had never been in the city of Newark alone. Next I want to visit the Newark Public Library to dig up obituaries, business directories and anything about the turn of the century breweries that my great grandfather from Germany worked in.

When I arrived there were just 2 other people there looking at a grave. They helped me find my family plot. Only one other person walked through the grounds. So it turned out to be a safe trip. I doubt a police escort is needed if people go in large numbers. This isn't said to negate that there are destructive people around, BTW. I think I'll go on the next 'safe day' to plant some bulbs.

The condition of the cemetery was disgraceful - I drove through the 'roads' which are barely there with grass growing through what's left of the blacktop. Huge tree limbs were down so I had to back up and go another path. I thought I was going to tear my muffler off. It felt like "Escape from New York". Even with a map of the grounds I found it hard to find the section I was looking for - some section markers would have been nice. However, the condition of my family plot was good - it was mowed and the headstones are squat things circa 1917 that can't easily be knocked over or broken. I took pictures of the headstones and some of the other visitors' toppled headstone. I recently found my great grandmother's will in which she asked her son that a small amount of money be held aside in perpetuity to maintain the plot - but there's no one left from their generations to do that. I'm probably the only Hofmann to see that plot in many years or even care.

Holy Sepulchre, on the other hand, was beautifully maintained , well marked and a grounds keeper showed me where that family plot was. I wish I had more time to look around there at the beautiful monuments.

In response to being told it wasn't safe to visit Woodland Cemetery:

Well, maybe my ancestors were watching over me - glad that someone remembered them. Several of the people buried in the family plot died long before I was born or shortly thereafter so I didn't get to meet or know them. I'm sure there are times you don't go to this place - at night, for instance. ; ) On this day I saw no menacing gangs lurking about or prostitutes or druggies sitting on headstones...anywhere ...in the area between Holy Sepulchre and Woodland. The streets were clean and people even smiled at me. I saw one stray dog with fleas on a street corner. It was kind of surreal based on my ingrained perception of a dangerous city. (I am old enough to remember the Newark Riots.)

The reason I present this view is that I overcame my fear of going into Newark . It was a big deal to me to drive there ( Rte 78 the entire way so it wasn't difficult - I live just across the NJ border from Phillipsburg) AND to go into Newark and figure out my way around. I spent the night before looking at online maps getting familiar with the street names and looking at the satellite/street view. Even then I wasn't prepared for one-way streets. I was a little confused about getting back to 78, but I asked questions of people on corners and in their cars and they directed me back out of the maze onto 78. It was a good visit and I'm looking forward to going back next Spring.


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