I grew up just around the corner from the front gate of Rosehill. My friends and I would saunter into the cemetery and its untamed woods area. It was a magical place. There we transformed into Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett or we were pirates, hunters, cowboys or Indians. The trees provided us with cover from our imaginary enemies, and the brush was the place to fight our foes. Of course, we knew that we were not to be there. Everyone in the area had heard about the legend of the caretaker with the salt and pepper gun; except it was no ghost story. The caretaker lived on the property and did nightly rounds.
Later on, I learned to drive in Rosehill just like previous generations of teens did before me. Our parents must have figured that there was no one we could really hurt and the streets of Chicago were safer with all of us learning in Rosehill instead of traffic.
Personally, I have family buried there. My roots are buried deep in the cemetery and the surrounding area. That is why I am so happy that we were able to preserve this pristine piece of land for future generations to dream and explore and to fish or find arrowheads like the generations that came before them.
--Interviewed by Marge Kelly
Marge Kelly, Long Time Resident of Arcadia Terrace
My family moved just across the street from Rosehill Cemetary. At that time there were no buildings to block the view of the landscaped trees on the Western Avenue side. That side of the cemetery was landscaped in such a way that all year there would be a tree in bloom such as evergreens in the winter and so on. Before the renovation, all that was left of the landscaping was the horse chestnut trees that turn a vibrant red in fall. It was like living in the country in the city.
While I was growing up, I heard the stories of my grandparents going to what is now the West Ridge Nature Preserve to pick wild grapes and crabapples for jelly, dandelions for wine and hunt rabbit for food. Other ethnic immigrants did the same. They came for grape leaves to stuff and dandelion leaves to put in salads as well as for mushrooms. During the Great Depression of ’29, Rosehill was a source of food for those who knew how to harvest its wild bounty.
I did not play in Rosehill but I did learn to drive in there. I spent a lot of time looking at the historical tombs. And yes, I had heard about the legendary caretaker. As fate would have it, I taught four of his children and learned that the family was close friends of my family both here and in Ireland.
I am excited about the new nature preserve. I have enjoyed its beauty for years and hope all will love it just as my family does.