Resting in Richmond Park Neighborhood
published: January 1st, 2007
Bordering Richmond Park, four cemeteries serving different groups share boundaries in the Richmond Park neighborhood: Ahavas Achim, Lithuanian Freedom, SS Peter & Paul, and Washington Park.
In 1892 fifteen families left Temple Emanuel, located east of the Grand River, to form the orthodox congregation of Ahavas Achim, located on the west side. In 1937-8 they merged with Temple Beth Israel to form the Congregation Ahavas Israel. The Ahavas Archim Cemetery was founded ca 1916 by the Congregation Ahavas Achim. It is located north of the Lithuanian Freedom Cemetery and east of SS Peter and Paul Cemetery which can be seen in the background beyond the fence. The cemetery's affiliation is Jewish Conservative and it's owned by Congregation Ahavas Israel, 2727 Michigan St. NE.
The twenty-one-foot cross carved of cedar and ornamented with wrought iron, a style still commonly seen in rural areas of Lithuania, was installed in SS Peter and Paul Cemetery in 1989. It bears a plaque commemorating 600 years of Christianity in Lithuania and was presented by the Lithuanian-American community of persons displaced after WWII. The ten-acre cemetery, owned by SS Peter & Paul Church, was dedicated in 1915 and is open to parish members. Before that, Lithuanian Town pioneers were buried in the Mt. Calvary German Catholic cemetery on the south side of Leonard St.
The Lithuanian Freedom Cemetery was developed by the Sons & Daughters of Lithuania, an organization that still exists on Hamilton St. Members were either non-Catholic or non-religious. Since the cemetery was founded about the same time that Lithuania gained independence in 1918, it's possible that the name connects to that event. Edward Gillis records in his book, Growing up in Old Lithuanian Town that its name relates to having no affiliation with the church. It adjoins the SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery's eastern boundary fence line, and many families have relatives in both cemeteries.
Washington Park Memorial Gardens, now under corporate ownership, was started by the West Side Christian Schools. Many of the Dutch and German Reformed faith are buried here. One of the earliest mentioned is Jennie Van Slooten 1842-1881, born in Holland, as was her husband, Fred, a cabinet maker, and daughter, Annie, who was only 15 when her mother died. Near the cemetery entrance is a section dedicated to children called Babyland where small heart-shaped memorials are placed.
Books available from the Grand Rapids Public Library
- Bratt, James D. and Meehan, Christopher H. Gathered at the River: Grand Rapids, Michigan and its People of Faith. Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids Council for the Humanities, Eerdmans, 1993.
- Samuelson, Linda; Schrier, Andrew; et al. Heart & Soul: The Story of Grand Rapids Neighborhoods. Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids Area Council for the Humanities at the Grand Rapids Public Library, William B. Eerdmans, 2003.
Books available from the Grand Rapids Historical Commission
- Growing Up in Old Lithuanian Town by Edward V. Gillis
- Ahavas Israel Tombstone Photographs
- Lithuanian Freedom Cemetery Tombstone Photographs
- Lithuanian Freedom Cemetery records
- 1929 membership records, SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church
- Washington Park Cemetery Tombstone Photographs
- Walker Township Cemeteries
- Kent County Cemeteries, Transcription List
- Kent County Tombstone Photograph Project