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[whitespace] Strolling down memory lane with Wayne Rose

By Cecily Barnes

Wayne Rose moves inconspicuously, his footsteps muffled in the thick carpet. He has puffy cheeks and thinning hair. An overcoat drapes over his arm, and he clutches a fedora hat. We stride toward a black Cadillac with a red interior and drive to Home of Peace, a private cemetary with palms and perfectly trimmed olive trees. The bodies of 1,824 Jews rest beneath the dirt, he says.

There are no foxhole atheists, and usually the first order of business for a frontier community was finding a place to bury their dead. In March 1857, San Jose's Jews purchased graveyard space from what was then called the San Jose Common Council for $1. It was a timely transaction. Just days after the purchase, 7-month-old Joseph Brownshield died an untimely death, filling the oldest known grave at Home of Peace.

With expert knowledge of the grounds, Rose leaps rocks, sidesteps holes and lands dead-center before a mini mausoleum that reads, B-L-O-O-M. "This is the only private family mausoleum in the whole cemetery," he says. A few feet away, he pays respects to Eugene Rosenthal, who died in 1935. "He was a judge in San Jose," Rose says. "And this guy over here, Leon Jacobs, he had a clothing store in downtown."

At the freestanding mausoleum at the edge of the cemetery, Rose points to another stone, this time with a little jest in his voice. "Does that name sound familiar to you?" he asks, referring to a stone with the name Hirsch printed on it. I think for a moment. "Ever heard of A. Hirsch & Son Jewelers?"

The game goes on for nearly an hour. Rose grows thoughtful, remembering the names, stories and businesses. Louis Lacker had been a doctor. Harry Jacobs owned a camera shop. Albert Kragen founded Kragen Auto Parts. Rose moves quickly and stops to shake his index finger for nearly 10 seconds before speaking.

"Nathan Treister," he pauses. "If it were possible to be a Jewish Santa Claus, it would have been him. He was just a wonderful guy, always wanting to help somebody. Every Friday night, without fail, he and his wife Bertha were at temple."

Then Rose falls quiet; the game seems to have stopped. "I buried most of them in here," he says. "I knew most of them, too."

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From the March 12-18, 1998 issue of Metro.

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