Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Calvary Cemetery

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Calvary Cemetery Northeast Entrance, © Bob Trube, 2019.

From the time I was old enough to walk to the West Side Library or the Mahoning Plaza, my walk along Mahoning Avenue took me past Calvary Cemetery. Later on, I used to walk along the east side of the cemetery along S. Belle Vista, either when I walked up to the James L. Wick, Jr. recreation area or more frequently, on the way to Chaney High School. Most of the time, I didn’t give it much thought apart from looking at some of the very impressive grave monuments. We used to joke that they needed those heavy stone monuments to keep some of the people in their graves.

I can’t recall that I was in the cemetery until the deaths of some of my wife’s relatives, and of her mother, who died in 1998, and was buried next to her husband, who had died many years earlier. I did not grow up in a Catholic home, and most of my relations were buried at Forest Lawn over on Market Street. Many of my Catholic friends had grandparents, aunts and uncles who were buried there.

Calvary Cemetery is one of four Catholic Cemeteries serving the Diocese of Youngstown. The others are in Cortland (All Souls), Massillon (also Calvary), and Austintown (Resurrection). Calvary is the oldest of these, and the largest. I could not find a figure of how many people are buried at Calvary Cemetery. Find-a-Grave currently lists 20,586 memorials photographed, which they say is 67% of the memorials. This would suggest that at least 30,000 people are buried there, and perhaps more if a memorial remembered more than one person buried nearby, such as a couple. [Since first posting, I heard estimates between 100,000 and 200,000 and learned through a reader that an employee of the cemetery told her 250,000 people were interred there.]

The cemetery was established in 1885 and was also known as Mount Calvary Cemetery. There were two older Catholic cemeteries in the area, the Old Catholic Cemetery known as Rose Hill, and the German Catholic Cemetery, also known as St. Joseph’s Church Cemetery. When Calvary was opened, those interred at these other two cemeteries were moved there, meaning that Calvary includes graves of those who died prior to 1885.

While the list is not nearly as long as the one for Oak Hill Cemetery, where many of the early “pillars” of Youngstown were buried, the cemetery serves as the final resting place of some important figures in Youngstown history. These include:

  • Michael Patrick “Little Pat” Bilon (1947-1983), an actor most famous for his role as “E.T.” in the 1982 film E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.
  • Michael Joseph Kirwan (1886-1970), long-time Congressman for the 19th District, serving from 1937-1970.
  • Charles Joseph Carney (1913-1987), Kirwan’s successor in Congress.
  • George “Shotgun” Shuba (1924-2014), the Brooklyn Dodger outfielder most famously know for “The Handshake” as Shuba waited at home plate to shake Jackie Robinson’s hand after Robinson hit a home run. The event was photographed and became a widely circulated symbol of the breakdown of racial barriers in Major League Baseball.
  • Leonard Thom (1917-1946), the executive officer on PT 109, commanded by Lt. John F. Kennedy.
  • Dr. Louis E. Rampona (1904-1986), physician to Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer.
  • Charles J. Williams (b. 1871-d. unknown). He was the first African-American patrolman and detective, appointed to the Youngstown Police Department in 1899.

Calvary Cemetery continues to serve the needs of the Catholic community in Youngstown, although Interment.com indicates that while accepting burials, space is becoming limited. The cemetery is well into its second century as the final resting place for many Catholic residents in Youngstown. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

18 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Calvary Cemetery

  1. Thanks, Bob, for the history of Calvary Cemetery where my maternal grandparents were buried long before I was born. Like you initially, I hadn’t given much thought to the cemetery but your story presented here is appreciated.

  2. Bob
    Thanks for a great article. Many of my ancestors are buried in Calvary. I visited the cemetary for years as a child with my parents and now when I visit Ytown to admire the old stones and honor my relatives.
    Beautiful, peaceful place.
    Michelle Humans White

  3. THank you much Bob for your story on Calvary. Most of my family and extended family are all buried in Calvary. I live in Florida and post often on Find A Grave. As a result I often need to contact the Cemetery for info on people buried there and the staff have ALWAYS given me their utmost help. For that I am appreciative AND I am appreciative to you Bob, for your different stories on my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio

  4. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2019 | Bob on Books

  5. My parents and maternal grandparents are buried there between Stations of the Cross 6 & 7. And my husband’s parents, sister and nephew are have a family plot by the chapel and 3 of his grandparent are there, too. After my dad died (at 42) my mother would visit his grave everySunday bringing flowers Her sister died 2 years later and is next to my mom’s plot and her parents’ plot so there are 6 of my family there.My husband and I are now the ones who take flowers there. And a bit of trivia…Calvary is where my mom took me and my older brother to practice driving before taking our driving tests!

  6. Have been to Calvary several times this summer and it is so sad to see stones overgrown.. sunken.. hard to find your family.. Grandparents picture covers broken and missing exposing picture! just not cared for as in years past and as it should be..it’s heartbreaking…

  7. Thank you for this interesting article. Have many relatives buried there. My aunt used to drive us thru there and make me cry telling us she would leave us there if we were.bad..then laugh. Hated walking past it coming home from the Schenley theatre in the dark!

  8. I never realized how many notable citizens are buried there! But I have always known it was an aged and well cared-for cemetery.

  9. Bob, my parents, grandparents and many relatives are buried there. Thanks for the story. You are correct on the lack of upkeep as I have gone there a few times to trim around the graves. Also the cemetery disposed of Christmas wreaths and decorations months before the posted time without notification.

  10. My Grandparents and Uncle are buried close to the wall at the front entrance in your picture. The Sparkle doors are looking right at them. The stones are half buried and turned badly from tree roots. So sad. It would be difficult to repair and of them. In fact, there are three baby graves in their plot. I found that interesting.

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