September 2, 2013 – Labor Day
18.1 Miles Hamline-Midway, North End
Star Ocean Foods. The name of the business on Pierce Butler Route has always struck me as incongruous. I mean, Saint Paul is about as far from an ocean as you can get. I made Star Ocean Foods my first stop on the ride to learn exactly what goes on here.
Star Ocean Foods was open even though it was Labor Day. I went inside to talk to someone about what the business was all about. Unfortunately, about all I the information I could muster from a company supervisor was that company is a food wholesaler that supplies Asian markets, and it proved difficult to even get that much.
I jumped off Pierce Butler Route at Lexington Avenue and went north for one block to Burgess Street where I spotted an unusual house.
Much of the Most’s sign is still visible on the western wall of 1026 Front Avenue. Despite a lot of Googling, I didn’t find any information about Most’s.
Cemeteries are captivating places bursting with history and artistry. Older cemeteries feature fascinating hand sculpted grave markers of many sizes and shapes. By my unscientific count, there are about a dozen active cemeteries, where burials still take place, within Saint Paul city limits. Calvary Cemetery, 753 Front Avenue, is among the oldest in the city. According to the Calvary website, more than 100,000 burials have been performed at Calvary since its creation by Catholic church leaders in 1856.
I met Rene Rosengren shortly after riding into Calvary Cemetery. Rene told me she was searching for a grave marker for someone she connected with on “Find A Grave,” a free website for locating graves (www.findagrave.com).
“I’ll take a cemetery that’s in my neighborhood, look at Find A Grave’s ‘open requests,’ and select a few that I think I can fulfill and hope I can fulfill and try to get a good a photograph and put it up there.”
Rene’s grave site sleuthing success was high, locating four of the five she came to Calvary to find. Prior to volunteering to find graves for others, Rene used Find A Grave to locate the resting spots of her family members.
“About a year and a-half ago I did quite a bit of requesting and was just so tickled with how much help I got from volunteers that I finally just kinda was thinking, ‘You know what? It’s time to pay back, and forward.’”
“It’s definitely one of those things that some people are just going to look at you like, ‘You do WHAT with your weekend.’” Rene Rosengren
Rene admitted to me that people don’t always understand her hobby, “It’s definitely one of those things that some people are just going to look at you like ‘You do WHAT with your weekend.’”
Surprisingly, an attraction to genealogy, not good map skills, are the most helpful when searching for graves. “What probably helps you the most is having an interest in genealogy because that helps you with the experience of getting to a site and realizing that the name maybe is a little bit different from what the person put upon the memorial page.”
Most people, said Rene, are very happy when she fulfills a grave finding request. “The experience has been really gratifying. There’s been some people who have been just super excited with the results. Not always. You can be met with a lot of silence too because who knows what’s happened in the intervening time; Some of the requests can be a few years old by the time you see them so you don’t know if maybe the person isn’t actively looking at Find A Grave anymore.”
Her favorite Find A Grave success is a grave she found in Minneapolis’ Pioneer and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery. “The family was just over the moon about it. ‘You have helped us solve a huge mystery. Part of the family was so sure that this guy had died in Australia and you gave us proof that he did come to the US.’”
Rene’s favorite cemetery to search is Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, which she says has spoiled her with superior customer service and willingness to provide genealogical information.
Rene mentioned there are many historical and intricate grave stones at Calvary, which I found out for myself over the next hour and a half of wandering around. Here’s a sample of what I saw.
Members of Saint Paul’s early Catholic hierarchy are well represented at Calvary Cemetery.
John J. O’Connor served with the Saint Paul Police Department as a patrol officer, detective and finally, as chief from 1900 to 1912. His legacy was mixed – he was lauded as one of the best detectives in the country. Then as chief, his strong leadership resulted in a tremendous decrease in crime. However, his “Layover Agreement” or ‘O’Connor System’ gave police protection to out-of-town gangsters in exchange for the promise not to commit crimes within the Saint Paul city limits. It curtailed crime for a time but eventually backfired.
Calvary Cemetery is the first and only burial ground I’ve visited while bike riding Saint Paul. I’ve never had an aversion or fear of cemeteries and the time I spent here hasn’t altered that. What it has done is given me a greater respect for the historical and artistic value of cemeteries. I’m anticipating what differences I’ll notice and what I’ll learn when I bike through the other cemeteries throughout Saint Paul.
Here’s a link to the route of today’s ride: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/340461611