Relatives Find Resting Place for Tombstones
January 16, 1993
By Monique Parsons
Equipped with a truck, a rope, several pry bars and a furniture dolly,
three descendants of Ida May Shively braved a Friday morning squall
and wrenched her tombstone out of the sand at Surfer's Point.
It took the three men about an hour to remove the 91-year-old tombstone
from the eroded beachfront, where passers-by discovered it earlier this
week amid chunks of concrete exposed by the surf.
"The rain actually helped, because the sand was wet enough that
I could get some traction with my truck," said Gordon Clark of
Santa Paula, Shively's great-grandson.
The tombstone's emergence may have surprised no one more than 91-year-old
Ida May Shively Ryan of Santa Paula, whose mother's name is inscribed
on its granite face.
"I about flipped," said Ryan, who was about a week old when
her 34-year old mother died in June 1901.
"It was so fortuitous that it didn't get dumped under one of the
heavy pieces," said Clark, who plans to place the stone on his
grandfather's ranch. "Everyone involved is just thrilled that we
have this monument to her."
Although the tombstone originally had been set in the Ventura cemetery
on Main Street, it and more than two thousand others were removed in
1966 when the city converted the cemetery to Memorial Park. At the time,
Ryan and her brother, the well-known artist, rancher and banker Douglas
Shively, decided to move their mother's remains home to Santa Paula.
In lieu of hauling away the 300-pound marker, which also bears the name
of an infant son who had died in 1891, the family made a flat bronze
marker to match the others in the family plot, said Ryan's son, Bob.
Exactly how the well-preserved tombstone found its way to Surfer's Point
is anybody's guess. Many of the headstones were vandalized and removed
before the cemetery closed in 1966; others were stolen from Hall Canyon,
where the Ventura Parks and Recreation Department stored the unclaimed
Sharon Hallowed, a 1970 graduate of Buena High School, said that her
classmates would make pilgrimages to the gravestone littered canyon,
some for spooky thrill, others for strange treasures.
"They were just tossed back there and cracked, and guys would come
back there and put them in the back of their vans," said Hallowed,
whose senior yearbook shows a younger classmate posing beside a salvaged
"It was very obvious they were dumped there, just dumped,"
said Hallowed, who criticized city officials for not taking better care
of the gravestones, "Even at that young age, we thought it was
Park Superintendent Bob Byerts, who joined the city staff in 1966, confirmed
that many of the headstones were stolen from the canyon before 1972,
when most of them were ground up and used as landfill at the Olivas
Park Golf Course. Although his best guess is that the Shively gravestone
was dumped at the beach by vandals, Byerts said various city departments
and private contractors may have had access to the Hall Canyon rubble
over the years.
Byerts, however, was not shocked by the tombstone's emergence.
He and his staff have seen numerous gravestones in the rubble at Surfer's
Point, although none so clearly engraved and preserved as Ida May Shively's.
Photograph shows man in foul weather gear with 6' pry bar digging something
from the sand and cobble fill of Surfer's Point. Caption reads, "Todd
Golden of the Ventura Parks and Recreation Department uses a pry bar
to remove Ida May Shively's tombstone from the beach at Surfer's Point.