Many years ago when I relocated to Long Beach, I remember that the first thing you saw on entering the city was a sign that read: “Welcome to Long Beach: America’s Healthiest City.”
This same sign, I eventually noticed, was on all the entrances to Long Beach. In time it became clear to me that the reasons for these signs was the fact that there were no funeral parlors in town.
And, of course, there was no cemetery either, except for one, I believe, at the St. James Episcopal Church on West Penn Street, which I’m told is a pet cemetery.
Things certainly took a 180-degree turn some years later when the city allowed people to memorialize their departed loved ones by arranging for a garden, with a marker bearing their names, on the various medians along Park Avenue. Well, as those medians filled up with these memorials, the boulevards were then made available for the same purpose.
As more time passed, someone had the idea to increase the city’s revenue by selling benches on the boardwalk to people who wished to honor their deceased family members and friends. The benches would be adorned with a plaque featuring the names of the dead. Many of these benches are adorned with flowers, further lending to the appearance of a cemetery.
There are hundreds of benches on the boardwalk that is about 2.2 miles long. I understand there is a long waiting list to purchase a bench, and it has gotten to the point where space on the boardwalk is limited and the city is looking for other ways to memorialize its residents. One ways is to plant trees in their honor.
You might be interested to know that the price of the benches began at about $849 and I believe they are now somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000.
I totally respect the idea of remembering our departed loved ones in whatever way we deem appropriate. However, I must ask: Have we gone too far? Did we change the adage of Long Beach from “America’s healthiest city” to “You are entering the Long Beach City cemetery”?
I’m interested in Long Beach residents’ thoughts on this subject. But first, I want readers to understand that I’m not being disrespectful of the families who chose this method of memorializing their loved ones. I’m merely exercising my right to disagree with the methods.
It would really make me and, I’m sure, many other people rest a whole lot better if, when we leave and return to our city, we are welcomed by a sign that reads “Welcome to Long Beach: America’s Healthiest City.”