You Forgot To Remember

By Gene Arceri

There is no place like home more than a cemetery for James Dougan, the keeper of the headstones, especially at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, Los Angeles County, California. In life, the inhabitants there were once famous, fawned over and followed everywhere. The trail ends with their death like so many others that were forgotten by family, friends and fans. That was until one stalwart soul commonly known as ‘Jesuit’ Jim decided to change all of that.

The Holy Cross Cemetery, which is nearby many motion picture studios like MGM, is also a neighbor to Ignatius House, home to novitiates and where ‘Jesuit’ Jim worked as a cook for 16 years. His account of this predilection of grave hunting takes unexpected turns, “when I started cleaning headstones and bringing flowers, in 1995, I would cut the overgrown grass, clean, and wash granite headstones and polish ornamental brass headstones. The first headstone was that of Rita Hayworth near the Grotto, then followed Bing Crosby, Bela Lugosi {Dracula} even the Tin Man, Jack Haley and the Scarecrow, Ray Bolger.”

His neglected headstone and graving interest grew from then on. “I feel that after they have given us so much as artists, someone should care and not forget them. Around the holidays I bring flowers and make the headstones look like new. Mary Astor, my favorite, didn’t even have a flower vase until I bought one for her.” Loretta Young was often a guest of the Ignatius House and he had the pleasure of meeting her. “Before Loretta passed away, we would talk about her family, her mother and sisters and her acting career.” Today he looks after Loretta Young’s grave as her ashes were laid to rest in the grave of her mother Gladys. “They don’t have to be famous”, he says – if he saw a need he would take over, like the two ladies on the side of Mary Astor who are known to him only by their names. His list of names would fill a memorial ledger and Jim is always willing to give you a tour as he reads the epitaphs with his many anecdotes to spare. And if you can’t find an old favorite – Hattie McDaniel or Anna Mae Wong – to pay respects to ‘Jesuit’ Jim would be more than willing to give you a suggestion the next time that you are out at Holy Cross Cemetery.

As for me I seek remembrances within my heart.


Gene Arceri has gained world attention as a writer, critic, award winning PBS reviewer and publicist. A native New Yorker, Gene resides in San Francisco and spends considerable time in London. Among his best selling books are: ‘Elizabeth Taylor: Her Life. Her Loves. Her Future’, Susan Hayward’s ‘RED’ and ‘Charlie of Nob Hill’. {San Francisco’s most famous cat}

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