WESTLAKE VILLAGE — On a shimmering, windy morning, relatives, friends and guests attended the unveiling of a granite gravestone for Ronald L. Goldman, who was slashed to death last June with Nicole Brown Simpson outside her Brentwood condominium.
Jewish tradition holds that a grave site go unmarked until a year of mourning has passed. The unveiling of the gravestone signifies the end of the mourning period.
Rabbi Gary E. Johnson of Temple Beth Haverim in Agoura Hills presided over the ceremony. He read several prayers and a veil was lifted from the small gray cemetery marker inscribed with the words: "Loving Son, Brother and Friend Ronald Lyle Goldman July 2, 1968--June 12, 1994."
A message also was engraved on the stone. It read:
"Sometimes when we're alone and lost in thought and all the world seems far away, you come to us as in a dream, gently taking our hands and filling our hearts with the warmth of your presence.
"And we smile, knowing that although we cannot be together for now, you're always close in our thoughts.
"Missing you now, loving you always."
A waiter at Mezzaluna restaurant in Brentwood, Goldman reportedly was returning a pair of mislaid glasses to Nicole Brown Simpson the night he was killed. Prosecutors are trying to prove that former football great O.J. Simpson killed his ex-wife in a fit of rage and murdered Goldman because he happened to be there. Simpson has pleaded not guilty.
Goldman's marker was unveiled on a sloping grass-covered hill near the foot of a pine tree in Beth Olam cemetery, the Jewish section of Valley Oaks Memorial Park.
Though much of the publicity surrounding the Simpson trial has focused on the details of the grisly murder and a famous suspect, the ceremony illustrated that the bitterness and loss have not lessened--and may never, said Goldman's sister, Kim.
"It's not a matter of feeling better," she said. "It just becomes more permanent."
Deputy Dist. Attys. Marcia Clark and William Hodgman were also present. In the celebrity trial hoopla, victims' families are often forgotten, Hodgman said.
"This is what it's all about," he said. "The unbelievable pain for the family. And I wish everyone could feel what it was like to be on this hill today."
Fred Goldman, Ronald Goldman's father, broke down in tears while speaking. His wife, Patti Goldman, stepped up and put her arm around him.
Near Goldman's grave stood a large arrangement of yellow and blue flowers. The card read: "We love you and miss you--Mom, Grandma and Grandpa."
A miniature American flag was placed near the marker. Across the cemetery, hundreds of American flags snapped in the brisk wind, decorations for a special Memorial Day service for U.S. servicemen and women to take place today.
After mourners and the media left, a few curious people stopped to read the gravestone.
"I'm not a relative," said one woman, who did not want her name used. "My husband is buried over there. I just wanted to pay my respects. It's something awful. Such a shame. He was so young."
In front of the gravestone, a pile of bouquets lay littered with cards addressed to Goldman. Read one: "Ron--I hope the sunflowers bring you warmth. But nothing can ever compare to the warmth of your soul. I love you. Kim."
Tyrus R. Woods, a manager at Valley Oaks Memorial Park, said the ceremony lasted a little more than one hour.
"It was beautiful," he said. "Usually, the rabbi unveils the gravestone, a prayer is said, and everything is over."
At Goldman's service, the rabbi said several prayers, his family spoke, and a few songs were sung, Woods said.
"It's good that so many people came," said another employee of the park who asked not to be identified. "So much attention is paid to O.J., the attorneys, the jury. Today, it was a special day, just for him and his family."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.