Relatives Find Resting Place for Tombstones

Star-Free Press
January 16, 1993

By Monique Parsons
Staff writer

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 tombstones.

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 headstone.

"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 just awful."

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.

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