Each headstone tells a story – sometimes a short one, sometimes a more elaborate tale. They tell of brave military service, of too-early departures, of partners or parents separated decades prematurely. North Bergen has seven cemeteries, including a mausoleum and a crematory. They are places for reflection and rememberance, although as Halloween approaches, graveyards are seen as part of the ambiance.
Anthony Vainieri Jr., manager of the Vainieri Funeral Home in North Bergen, hypothesized that the township may have such a large number of cemeteries because of the way the county was configured more than a hundred years ago.
“We probably had the land available at the turn of the (20th) century,” he said. More dense towns like Hoboken and Weehawken likely did not.
Vainieri also said that older churches used to have burial grounds on their own properties for their parishioners.
Here are some of the stories found in local cemeteries.
Flower Hill Cemetery on Kennedy Boulevard holds the somewhat recent grave of Ed Alberian, a noted children’s television actor who died in 1997. Alberian played Professor Gasbags on the television show “Howdy Doody” and Clarabell the Clown in public. He also appeared on “Bozo” and the “Banana Splits.”
Or you can go back much further in time to to the final resting places of Decatur Dorsey, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient who died in 1891, and Christian Woerner, a Union Army officer in the same conflict, whose death preceded Dorsey’s by 10 years.
“We probably had the land available at the turn of the 20th century.” – Anthony Vainieri Jr.
One of the most interesting headstones in Flower Hill Cemetery is the faux tree-trunk of the Bello family, dedicated to “Our Beloved Parents” by their children. Joseph passed in 1956, leaving Sally to mourn him for 36 years before her own passing in 1992.
Adjacent to Flower Hill Cemetery are Hoboken and Machpelah cemeteries. In the Machpelah Cemetery are the side-by-side graves of another couple who passed years apart. Hollie Williams survived action in World War II and died in 1971, but his wife Marie passed away in 2006. Marie spent the last 35 years of her life without her partner.
The Guidotti plot in Flower Hill is especially poignant. The headstone is four feet tall, with a right-hand side column with a curled leaves etching and top area that depicts a tree-branch cross and roses. Toward the top are chiseled oval spaces for the photos of four children. Two spots are already filled with pictures from 1976, those of “Our Beloved Sons” Peter R. (born 1956) and Paul O. (1957). They died well before parents Peter (1898-1982) and Augustine (1905-1996).
The Adolph Lankering Family Vault could bring a tear to one’s eye. One can see that Louise lived 77 years, Adolph 85 years, but George Adolph only two and a half, from 1895 to 1897.
The Montgomery plot lies nearby. Wife Katherine and husband William John were both born in 1861, and were together the rest of their adult lives until his death in 1921. Katherine lasted only one more year, passing in 1922. Their son, Joseph, lived another 54 years, until 1976.
Beautiful and interesting
One of the most striking headstones is the black one for “Rosa,” with sleeping angels sitting atop. Under it are the names of Jimmie (1958-1994) and Ramon (1956-1992), both only 36 when first mourned.
Not too far is the final resting place of Isidra Lopez. Her speckled, rose-colored headstone is adorned with a rendering of Jesus and the sacred heart, with flowers on both sides of the image.
The headstone of William Blick is an interesting one; an open book, likely a Bible, resting on a stand. Made in 1902, the weather has taken its toll on it over the last century.
Many of the headstones and markers in both cemeteries are simple. In Machpelah, some only have the first name of the dead; “Georgie,” “Maude,” and “Eliza J.” A set merely says “Mamma” and “Papa.” One reads “W.R. Sr.” and “W.R. Jr.” and nothing else.
Another marked “Hawthorn” says, “In loving memory of Father and Mother,” but lists no names.
Diversity in peace
The graves at the two sites speak of the diversity of the township over the years. There are the Familia Iannuzzi, the Cucciniellos, and the Priscos, but also the Schneider Family, the Cronks, and Schutte, as well as headstones for Matos, Valdes, and Crespo. Most of the gravestones are in English, but many are in other languages, including German and Spanish.
The tombstones and markers come in many different sizes, from a few inches to several feet; shapes, including logs, hearts, cylinders, panels, crosses, columns, books, and stands; and substances, including stone, metal, and plastic.
North Bergen cemeteries
Other North Bergen resting places are the Grove Reformed Church cemetery, Weehawken cemetery, Bergen Crest Mausoleum, and Garden State Crematory.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.