Cemetery holds Santa Ynez Valley history
Roadside Attractions

Cemetery holds Santa Ynez Valley history

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Wind whipped through the oaks and redwoods in picturesque Oak Hill Cemetery.

The only public cemetery in the Santa Ynez Valley, this is the resting place for generations of valley residents.

Lying just off country lane-like Baseline Avenue and up a hill from the community of Ballard, the cemetery is a peaceful place. Colorful floral displays dotted the grounds.

“It’s like a little park,” said cemetery manager David Jakkola. A predecessor, Edgar Davison, manager from 1918 to 1949 and a one-time forest ranger, planted many of the trees.

Citing the many floral displays, Jakkola said, “The valley is close-knit. A lot of families come here.”

Local walkers hike the cemetery roads.

Gravestones recall valley history. Felix Mattei, founder of Mattei’s Tavern, is buried alongside other Matteis under a grove of towering redwoods. Nearby, Jakkola noted, are “a ton of Buells,” namesakes for the city of Buellton.

Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol’s famed star-crossed Golden Girl who died in 1971, and her mother have simple side-by-side headstones under massive oaks. Cited in tourbooks, Edie’s grave, with its small cyclamen plant, still draws many out-of-town visitors.

Stage, film and television actor John Forsythe, who lived in the Santa Ynez Valley, is also buried here.

Poignant stories abound. There’s a small lamb-topped headstone for a 2-year-old who died in 1910, and markers for two brothers who died before the age of 7.

This is one of the few local cemeteries that permits raised headstones, plus memorial boulders, in the back portion of the 13-acre cemetery.

The aging cemetery, which had its first burial in 1883, has needs, Jakkola said. In an interview in 2010, he noted that the cemetery’s irrigation system was 80 years old.

The cemetery is concerned about running out of space in the next few years, though cemetery staff have created new gravesites and established an attractive “cremation garden” in the rear.

Hopeful for a cemetery angel, he said in 2010, “It’s such a neat place. I wish we could expand.” Unfortunately, people “don’t think about these things until the time comes.”

Roadside Attractions is a weekly chronicle of sights along the Central Coast’s highways and byways. This feature originally ran May 11, 2010. Sally Cappon can be reached at sjcappon@aol.com.

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