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Contact: John Llewellyn

Birth of a Cemetery

Forest Lawn Memorial-Park

By John F. Llewellyn






Lucille Ball, Carrie Fisher, Walt Disney and Paul Walker. These are just a few of the famous individuals who were laid to rest among Forest Lawn’s six cemeteries that are a part of the fabric of Los Angeles.


While these sacred places are often known for their celebrity “clientele,” their rich history truly goes beyond the grave. In the new book, Birth of a Cemetery: Forest Lawn Memorial-Park (August 2018, Tropico Press), former President and CEO of Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks & Mortuaries and current chairman of its board of directors John F. Llewellyn shares the story of the original and most famous location in Glendale from its inception in 1906. Conceived by San Francisco architect T. Paterson Ross, his father, and businessman J.B. Treadwell, Forest Lawn experienced the many ups, downs and financial hardships of most businesses – many times coming far too close to also heading six feet under.


It wasn’t until Hubert Eaton, one half of a sales team came in 1912 to help management find new ways to make money, managed to acquire control of much of the cemetery’s land that the tide truly turned for this SoCal landmark. Closely following, Eaton was inspired to create a new model for a cemetery, known as a “memorial-park,” which would abolish upright tombstones in favor of sweeping vistas combined with beautiful art and architecture. Forest Lawn Cemetery would become Forest Lawn Memorial-Park and, ultimately, Eaton’s vision changed the way cemeteries were designed across the U.S.


Today, as the LA Times deemed it, “a convergence of religion, patriotism, American entrepreneurial pluck and European facsimiles set on about 300 sloping, grassy acres,” Forest Lawn Memorial-Park still ensures its primary focus is on honoring the lives lost and the families they’ve left behind. Amidst these services, tourists will often visit with hopes of finding the final resting place of their favorite celebrities (Forest Lawn does not provide any specific information as to protect the privacy of those buried there) as well as to admire the reproductions of many of Michelangelo’s major sculptural works; many original sculptures created for Forest Lawn; a vast reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" in stained glass; a free museum; a 195-foot-wide panoramic painting of Christ's crucifixion, the world's largest permanently-mounted religious painting; and three churches modeled after European landmarks, one in which Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman were married in 1940.


Offering a look into the unique world of famous cemeteries – and the cemetery business as a whole – Llewellyn is available for interviews, commentary and Q&As during which we can further discuss:


  • Forest Lawn’s 100+ year history, from its challenging early years to today, directly from the family who have cultivated it from the start

  • Little known facts and stories about Forest Lawn – its art & architecture, place in Hollywood history, most memorable moments and more!

  • Death always comes first: How they’ve ensured privacy and honoring client’s wishes remains their top priority amidst other attention the cemeteries have garnered

  • How Forest Lawn forever changed the cemetery industry with the memorial-park concept

  • The family business of Forest Lawn: What it was like growing up in the cemetery business, and how it’s evolved into the company it is today



About John F. Llewellyn:


John F. Llewellyn has spent four decades in the cemetery and funeral industries. For more than two decades, until 2011, he was president and chief executive officer of Southern California’s Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks® & Mortuaries and acts as the chairman to its board of directors today. Widely acknowledged as a cemetery and funeral industry leader, Llewellyn has been president of the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association and the Cemetery and Mortuary Association of California as well as being an officer and director of the Western Cemetery Alliance.


A graduate of the University of Redlands with a major in economics, as well as the recipient of an MBA from the University of Southern California, Llewellyn has also penned three books. His first, A Cemetery Should Be Forever, was widely acclaimed in the cemetery industry and beyond as capturing the complexities and challenges of managing a cemetery, and has been used in college level courses as well as provided to the governing boards of many U.S. and international cemeteries. His second book, Saying Goodbye Your Way, is followed by his 2018 release, Birth of a Cemetery. Llewellyn lives in Pasadena, California with his wife, Carol, and their dog Spotless.

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