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Hope's Wife Chooses Unimposing Valley Site for Comedian

San Fernando Mission Cemetery is selected over more prestigious grounds. A public memorial will be held later this month.

August 03, 2003|Karima A. Haynes | Times Staff Writer

Shortly before his death, Bob Hope was asked by his wife, Dolores, where he wanted to be buried. The master of the one-liner said, "Surprise me."

The enduring comedian, who died July 27 of complications from pneumonia at the age of 100, could have been laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, along with Hollywood luminaries Clark Gable, James Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Nat King Cole, Jean Harlow and Walt Disney.

Arlington National Cemetery would have been a fitting choice for the honorary U.S. military veteran who entertained generations of American service personnel from World War II to the Persian Gulf War and played golf with U.S. presidents.

Instead, Dolores Hope chose San Fernando Mission Cemetery as her husband's final resting place. The unimposing burial ground in the northeast San Fernando Valley community of Mission Hills reflected her desire for "simplicity and good taste," according to Bob Hope's longtime publicist Ward Grant.

Dolores Hope's mother, Theresa Kelly DeFina, and one of Bob Hope's brothers are interred there.

"It's a beautiful place. It's in the Valley, and she has an affection for its beauty. There's a history there," Grant said.

The 86-acre cemetery, owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is adjacent to the historic San Fernando Mission Rey de Espana, built in 1797, the 17th of the 21 missions founded in California by Franciscan friars. The first burial at the cemetery was recorded in 1800.

Several celebrities are entombed there, including actors William Bendix, Walter Brennan, Chuck Connors, George Gobel and William Frawley and singer Ritchie Valens, church officials said.

Hope was buried Wednesday after a private funeral Mass at dawn attended by about 100 relatives and friends at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood, a few blocks west of the Hope estate in Toluca Lake, Grant said.

Inside a small chapel on the church's east side, the casket was draped in an American flag and placed in front of an altar adorned with greenery and white flowers, Grant said. The Rev. Msgr. Thomas Kiefer officiated at the service, which included readings by son Kelly Hope and grandson Zach Hope. Another son, Tony Hope, paid tribute to his father and expressed the family's appreciation to those attending.

After the hourlong service, Los Angeles police led a motorcade from the church to the cemetery, Grant said. At the conclusion of a graveside service, mourners gave the legendary comic a standing ovation.

Hope's remains were placed in a temporary mausoleum vault while a grotto is being built as a final resting place, Grant said.

"Mrs. Hope wanted things done simply and in good taste and this is what has happened," Grant said.

The family plans an invitation-only Mass at St. Charles Borromeo on Aug. 27 and a public memorial that afternoon at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood.

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