City News: May 2008 Archives

Riverside National Cemetery

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Riverside National Cemetery

National Medal of Honor

National POW/MIA Memorial

Memorial Day weekend

Recent burials

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Riverside National Cemetery, one of the nation's largest national cemeteries. It is also one of the busiest.

Located along I-215 just west of March Air Reserve Base in southeastern Riverside, the 921-acre cemetery is the final resting place for nearly 180,000 veterans, former service members and their spouses from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Currently, the cemetery averages 150 services per week, totaling about 8,000 per year.

Riverside National sits on the former grounds of Camp William G. Haan, which served as an anti-aircraft training facility during WWII. In 1946, Camp Haan was absorbed into March Air Force Base and remained part of the base's sprawling western landscape before being transferred to the VA in 1976 for the then-planned 740-acre national cemetery.

The initial phase of 96 acres cost $5 million and opened on Veterans Day, Nov. 11th 1978. The first interment was local WWII hero and Medal of Honor recipient, Ysmael R. Villegas, whose family allowed re-burial from Riverside's Olivewood Cemetery to the newly-christened national cemetery. Within the first month of operation, the facility performed 355 interments, 163 of which were re-burials.

By 2003, when the Air Force transferred an additional 181 acres to the cemetery, the total overall acreage reached 921, with current development covering approximately 300 of those acres. With future development, the total number of interments is projected to reach well over 1 million.

Among those buried at Riverside National are two other Medal of Honor recipients -- Com. John H. Balch, WWI; and Col. Mitchell Paige, WWII / Korea -- as well as several distinguished persons, including Col. Aaron Bank (the father of the Army's Green Berets) and Capt. Lillian Kinkela Keil (an Air Force Flight Nurse Pioneer, who's one of the military's most decorated women). Also of note are several members of the Tuskegee Airmen; Ofc. James F. Van Pelt Jr., navigator during the dropping of the atomic bomb over Nagasaki; and Thomas Ross Bond Sr., best known as "Butch" in the 'Little Rascals' comedies.

Two lakes, an administration building, a small amphitheater and several monuments are scattered about the grounds, which ranges from gently rolling hills to wide open spaces. (Unfortunately, the newest portions tend to be a bit thin with regards to mature trees, a condition that with increased VA support, we hope changes sooner rather than later.)

Among the memorials is one of four nationally recognized National Medal of Honor sites, which was built in 1999. Other monuments include a Veteran's Memorial and the National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Memorial. On the immediate horizon is a replica of the Vietnam Wall Memorial with several others representing the Civil War, WWI, WWII and Korea planned for the future.

Though far from being the "Arlington of the West" as first envisioned by its chief proponent and longtime civic activist David Goldware, Riverside National Cemetery has come a long way in a short 30 years. With the right guidance, diligent local support -- and kind Congressional budgets -- the cemetery may very well become the Arlington for a new generation of veterans.

Photo Gallery: Riverside National Cemetery


Medal of Honor
Lake "B"

(June 1976)
(Nov. 1978)
Camp Haan*
Camp Haan*

*Photo courtesy of Robert F. Gallagher

Sources: Riverside National Cemetery, March Air Reserve Base, March Field Museum, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, The Press-Enterprise, WikiPedia

Relocation of Marcy Branch likely

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In the midst of planning an expansion for the downtown branch, news surfaced recently regarding the future of another branch within Riverside's library system, this time involving the possible relocation of the tiny, but unique, Marcy Branch.

Current Marcy Branch

Future Marcy Branch?

Located on Central Avenue just west of the Riverside Plaza, the Marcy Branch opened in 1958 replacing the temporary Magnolia Center Branch established nearby in late 1951. The branch was named after longtime Riverside resident Charles F. Marcy, whose bequest helped provide funding for the new building.

The fanciful design of the circular, single-story library includes elements of post and beam construction that was popular at the time and is yet another fine example of mid-century architecture by noted Riverside architect Herman O. Ruhnau. The interior looks to be mostly intact, including what appears to be original lighting above the central reference desk.

The relocation proposal shifts the contents of the Marcy Branch into the former Auto Club building located about a mile away near the intersection of Magnolia and Arlington avenues. The plan calls for the library to occupy the first floor of the two-story, 18,000 sq. ft. building while city officials say offices for the city's Parks Department could occupy the second level.

Overall, we like the relocation plan. There's no doubt the Marcy Branch is severely cramped. The proposed move would nearly double the floor space over the existing Central Avenue location and even allow the possibility for future expansion upstairs. But what's to become of the current Marcy building? That's a question not yet answered.

Although easy to overlook and under appreciate in its current setting, we feel the existing Marcy building deserves to be preserved. Surely, the city can find an internal use for it, one that doesn't entail significant modification or costs. In fact, one such possibility comes from our friend Tanya at She has an excellent idea for reusing the Marcy building to house the library's Local History Resource Center, which is currently located in the basement of the downtown branch. Not only would this save the iconic Ruhnau-designed building, it would also allow greater access to more of the library's extensive local history collection.



Sources: City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library, The Press-Enterprise,

More - City News: May 2008:
April 2012 | March 2012 | December 2011 | November 2011 | August 2011 | July 2011 | June 2011 | May 2011 | March 2011 | December 2010 | November 2010 | October 2010 | September 2010 | June 2010 | May 2010 | February 2010 | January 2010 | November 2009 | September 2009 | August 2009 | July 2009 | June 2009 | May 2009 | April 2009 | February 2009 | January 2009 | December 2008 | November 2008 | September 2008 | August 2008 | July 2008 | June 2008 | May 2008 | April 2008 | March 2008 | February 2008 | December 2007 | October 2007 | July 2007 | June 2007 | May 2007 | April 2007 | March 2007 | February 2007 | November 2006 | September 2006 | August 2006 | July 2006 | June 2006 | May 2006 | December 2005 | October 2004 | January 2004 | December 2003 | November 2003 |

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This page is a archive of entries in the City News category from May 2008.

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