Cemetery restoration 80% done
By JIM JOHNSON
Herald Salinas Bureau
Article Last Updated: 02/19/2008 01:30:02 AM PST
Dotted with markers bearing famous pioneer names, the Old Calvary Cemetery stands sentry at the northwest entrance to Salinas.
It is surrounded by the rich fields of the verdant Salinas Valley that its pioneering inhabitants held so dear.
For nearly 140 years, the Catholic cemetery that pre-dated the adjacent
city by four years has held the remains of people with names like Graves,
Boronda, Breschini, Geil, Rianda, McFadden, Ferrini, Soberanes and many more.
They are all tucked away in a small, nearly forgotten tribute to the
Left to molder since its closure in 1960, the cemetery had fallen victim
to weeds, garbage, vandalism and vagrants.
That is, until a band of folks dubbed the Old Calvary Cemetery
Restoration Committee took matters into their own hands five years ago. The
group raised money through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey's
Cemetery Administration for the restoration effort.
Since taking over the project, the committee has raised about $100,000
for a much-needed cleanup. It has added new ornamental fencing, security
lighting, a new main gate, a perimeter fence and a paint job for the
15-foot white cross in the midst of the gravestones.
The committee also installed a historical marker for the cemetery's
founder, George Graves, and one for Fran McFadden, who donated $2,500 for
the plaque before her own death in September. A list of contributors to the
restoration project is affixed on the fence at the cemetery's main
The committee's founder, Salinas native John Futini, said the effort to
restore the cemetery is simply the right thing to do. Besides, the
87-year-old Futini, who moved away from Salinas in the 1940s and lives in Napa, has a personal stake in the cemetery's condition. His parents, Joseph and Pierina,
rest in Old Calvary.
"You can't just forget those who have gone before," Futini
said. Letting the cemetery crumble into disrepair is "a sacrilege.
It's disrespectful. Especially that cemetery, which contains so many
pioneers who made the Salinas Valley what it is."
There is work and fundraising still to be done, Futini said, with
another $20,000 needed for monument and grave site renovations.
Wayne Gularte, a member of the restoration committee who also has family
buried at the cemetery, said the work is about "80 percent"
finished and the rest will take at least two more years.
Meanwhile, the Monterey County Historical Society is backing an attempt
to secure a historical landmark designation for the cemetery, a lengthy and
complex process, said President Mona Gudgel.
Gudgel said the society has already received permission from the Roman
Catholic Diocese, which owns the cemetery, and has done most of the
research required as part of the historical designation effort.
Such a designation would preserve the cemetery for generations to come
and ensure that it couldn't displaced, Gudgel said.
"It is a critical part of our history," Gudgel said, noting
that some of the grave markers themselves could be historic. Funerary art
in the cemetery ranges from early hard-carved styles to later manufactured
Some of the cemetery's best-known inhabitants include the Boronda and
Soberanes families, whose names have become familiar with the area. Seven
members of each family are interred on the grounds, said the diocese Web
Graves, the Kentucky-born rancher who moved to California during the
height of the Gold Rush in 1849 and to Salinas in 1855, founded the
cemetery in 1870 by deeding the land where it sits. He's buried under a
large monument just east of the towering white cross that marks the burial
Spanish native Don Pedro Zabala, a landowner who arrived in Monterey County in 1849 and ended up marrying a daughter of William Petty Hartnell, is
interred in an imposing crypt. Several members of the Breschini family also
rest in a large crypt at the cemetery.
Other notable denizens include William Casey, an early county supervisor
and rancher; Samuel Franklin Geil, an early district attorney who has a
street in Salinas named for him; and Charles McFadden, who arrived in the
1950s and worked in farming and dairy operations in what was known as the
Jim Johnson can be reached at 753-6753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cemetery booklet · More about the Old Calvary Cemetery and its inhabitants is in "History of Pioneer Interments, Calvary Catholic Cemetery," by the Monterey County Historical Society and Anita Mason.
The booklet is available at the Historical Society's Boronda Adobe History Center in Salinas. To contribute to the restoration project, call Greg Knowles at
the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey's Cemetery Administration at