In a town notorious for its graveyards, Atkinson oversees several at the oldest and largest cemetery in Colma: Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. Since its opening in 1887, thecemetery has interred 400,000 people, most notably baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, Bank of America founder A.P. Giannini, Michael Henry de Young and several former California governors, who occupy a space known as Governors’ Row.
First things first: Are there ghosts at Holy Cross? I think there was a time that somebody thought there was one up in the mausoleum, but it turned out it was just a pipe making noise. When we have the school field trips with the kids, they come with the idea that it’s going to be spooky. … It’s really nice because the kids are amazed by the history and the beauty of the place. It’s not scary.
Have you ever seen any ghosts? No, but I figure I’m going to come back and haunt everybody after I’m dead.
How do cemeteries affect the town? I think that the residents still really respect the cemeteries and take into consideration that it’s what formed the town. It’s the history, and I think hopefully that’s not going by the wayside. I think we’re known as good neighbors.
Do you have a busy season? I would say that the day after Thanksgiving through March is the busiest time normally. It’s the winter months and holidays, and it just seems that people hold on to say goodbye to family.
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