The Hayward Area Historical Society has an idea of what the property the Archdiocese of San Francisco bought from the widow of John Zeile in 1913.
A walk among the headstones is a journey through the history of Hayward, with the names of many of the area's founding families engraved on them. Many of the area's founding families, of Portuguese, Spanish and Italian descent, are interred there.
The cemetery reflects the changing community, with many ethnic groups represented and some areas set aside for various groups. A new area, with a statue of St. Andrew Kim, will provide gravesites for the Korean community.
A decade-long renovation of some of the earliest parts of the cemetery was the vision of Robert Seelig, director of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services, whose office used to be in Hayward.
The fact that the Hayward Fault runs behind the mausoleum may have had something to do with it, but many of those headstones were not standing straight.
In the million-dollar renovation, 10,000 headstones were reset; an irrigation system installed; and roads repaved.
"I thought it was important to renovate it," Seelig said, particularly when it came to caring for graves that families were no longer visiting.
"It was important to communicate that the Church would look after the property more than one generation ahead," he said.
Today Holy Sepulchre is the largest of the cemeteries in the Diocese of Oakland. Only about half of its land is in use today; there's room for at least 75 years of growth. With the trend toward cremation, and the ability to inter more family members in a plot, that number may be 100, or more, he said.
At the eastern edge of the developed area are three acres of vineyards, which produce sacramental wine. At Holy Sepulchre, pinot noir, chardonnay and primitivo grapes grow.
Holy Sepulchre's landmark is the Mausoleum of the Apostles. Built in 1929, by craftsmen whose names were not recorded, it is a rare, imposing architectural gem.
"We couldn't build a building like that today," Seelig said. "You couldn't find the tradespeople."
Beneath the mausoleum are the forms used to create the images, in sandstone and concrete, of Jesus and the apostles, which adorn the front of the building.
The interior, with niches of marble, is light-filled and, until the building of the mausoleum at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, had been designated as the burial site of the bishops of Oakland.
Recent additions are glass-front niches, which allow for the display of photos or personal artifacts alongside the urn for the remains.
It's all part of the increasing custom personalization that Rick Davis, the site manager, and Seelig see as the cemetery enters its second hundred years.
Davis had pointed out the return of the family mausoleum. In the past, a double plot held two graves, now, with cremation, that number increases to 18.
New technologies provide the opportunity to etch photos, or even longer stories, onto stone, offering more than a simple two lines etched in granite.
There are famous people interred at Holy Sepulchre — among them the golfer Tony Lema, who died in a plane crash at the age of 32. The St. Elizabeth High School graduate, who died in 1966, is interred in the Mausoleum of the Apostles.
The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary have an area of the cemetery, where sisters' graves are marked simply.
But the cemetery is also one of small stories. Some are heartbreakingly small.
A small child had died, and there had been a mistake in getting the right location, and the young boy was buried in a grave at the cemetery's far southern end, near a fence separating the cemetery from neighboring Moreau Catholic High School's athletic field.
"The next day, a baseball flew over the fence, to the son's grave," Seelig recalled.
At first, the parents were upset the grave location was not right. But, too young to have played the game, the child loved the sport nonetheless.
Some took it to mean "He was meant to be there."
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