Holyhood Cemetery: Family Resting Place

By Joseph Kennedy
BU News Service

BROOKLINE — Nestled into a quiet spot between Hammond Pond and the densely wooded Dane Park sprawls a clearing, dotted with headstones in stark contrast to the woods to the South and the bustling freeway just north. It is not difficult to miss or to imagine a vacant field behind the tall hedgerows, but those who take the time to look find a place where history literally seems to spring from the ground.

Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline may not seem like a historical place at the first glance upon its well-manicured lawns and brightly colored Sakura trees. It takes little time before the names etched in history begin to appear before one’s eyes — etched in stone. And it does not require an extensive amount of searching before one finds a connection to one of the most powerful families in state history.

Among the interred are several generations of the Kennedy family, one of the most prominent political families of Massachusetts. Joseph and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, as well as their daughter Rosemary, are just a handful of notable figures laid to rest there. Joseph and Rose are, of course, the parents of the US president John and US senators Robert and Edward “Ted” Kennedy.

John F. Kennedy’s infant son, Patrick, who died just two short days after his birth in 1963, was interred at Holyhood from August to December of that year. Following the assassination of the president later that year, Patrick was exhumed and re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery with his father, but his gravestone remains in Holyhood.

The cemetery’s reputation of being the final resting place for Irish Catholic politicians is evidenced by being the gravesite of four former Boston mayors: Hugh O’Brien, Patrick Collins, Frederick Mansfield and Maurice Tobin. Also among those buried here are Georgie Wright, a baseball player from the 1930s and World Golf Hall of Famer Francis Ouimet.

The cemetery was constructed in 1853 as a sister cemetery to the then already established Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. The then 35-acre site was expanded in 1888, after having exhausted many of its available gravesites for casualties and veterans of the Civil War. Two Hundred acres of land were purchased in West Roxbury to become Holyhood’s eventual successor, St. Joseph’s Cemetery, which is owned and maintained by the same association to this day.

However, the expansion into West Roxbury did not mean the end of Holyhood’s service. In fact, Holyhood would go on to accept the dearly departed well into the 1970s before having to restrict the number of acceptances and defer them to St. Joseph’s. However, the cemetery continues not only to care for and remain open to the family and friends of those buried there, but for the occasional historian looking to pay respects.

It also features a chapel near the center of the compound, Fitzpatrick Chapel, constructed in 1862. It is one of the only active, still standing gothic chapels in Massachusetts to this day.

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