I grew up going on drives with my grandparents that sometimes involved stopping off for custard and always included a spin through the cemetery. Sometimes we would get out of my grandpa’s Buick and put flowers on graves, other times we would just ride around in silence. A few times we had a picnic.
I have been fond of cemeteries ever since and make a point to visit them in every city I visit. I have been to cemeteries in Amsterdam, Italy, Prague, England, Guatemala, Vancouver, New Orleans, Detroit, Atlanta and plan to visit a couple in Virginia and Washington, D.C. this summer.
My favorite cemetery, however, is Forest Home Cemetery on Milwaukee’s South Side. It is incredibly large – 200 acres – and extremely beautiful with lots of plantings and green space. It’s also very old – the first burial took place in 1850 – so the grave stones are particularly interesting.
There are many famous Milwaukeeans buried at the Forest Home Cemetery, including beer barons Jacob Best, Joseph Schlitz and Frederick Pabst. Former Milwaukee mayors Frank Zeidler and Byron Kilbourn are also buried there, along with many other former mayors.
Our favorite grave site is that of Christopher Latham Sholes, the inventor of the modern typewriter. My family of writers visits Sholes’ grave often, usually after making a stop at Leon’s for custard first.
I recently learned that Guido Pfister, the man who made the Pfister hotel a reality in Milwaukee, was buried there, too. This thrilled me, and so we dressed up in our best blacks and went to pay our respects to Guido.
Guido is buried between his son, Charles, and his wife, Elisabeth. There are numerous other Pfisters buried in the section, along with some Vogels. Guido Pfister and Frederick Vogel were cousins and business partners.
Carl Landsee, who worked for Guido and Frederick for 46 years, is also buried in the family plot.
I brought a bouquet of flowers to Guido and thanked him for the opulent and yet comfortable Pfister Hotel on behalf of Milwaukee as well as for setting the stage to make jobs for the often under-employed creative class. (The Pfister hires both resident artists and writers.)
And then we sat in the windy peacefulness, alone with the birds and the spirits, feeling grateful, craving custard.