Famous cemeteries like Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles, Pere Lachaise in Paris, or London’s Highgate, attract people whose idea of an enjoyable trip includes seeking out the final resting place of celebrities.
Seattle doesn’t come to mind when you think about famous celebrities or celebrity burials. Of course, there are plenty of locally famous Seattle graves to visit. Many of Seattle’s founders, from the Dennys to Doc Maynard, are buried in beautiful Lakeside Cemetery on Capitol Hill.
However, we do have a few gravesites of individuals well-known outside the Puget Sound area.
Here’s a look at a few famous Seattle graves. Our itinerary includes the Chief Seattle gravesite, the Bruce and Brandon Lee gravesite, and the Jimi Hendrix gravesite. We’ll also look at some other, more locally famous, graves you can visit when you’re at Lakeside.
Chief Sealth (Seattle) (1786-1866)
The soil is rich with the life of our kindred.
-quote from Chief Sealth gravesite
Chief Sealth was a Suquamish/Duwamish chief who developed a relationship with Seattle’s white settlers. He is well known for his importance in Seattle’s history, as its namesake, as well as for the words of a beautiful speech he never gave.
Where is he buried?
Chief Sealth is buried in the tribal cemetery in Suquamish, WA, not too far from where he was born.
Although he died in 1866, his tombstone was placed by some of Seattle’s founders in 1890.
In the past there, was a wooden canoe memorial, but it was rotting, and the gravesite is now flanked by two cedar totem poles placed there in 2011.
According to this article, the left pole represents Sealth as a warrior and as a wise elder, giving a speech. The right pole represents Old Man House in Suquamish — Sealth’s birthplace, and his spotting the sails of George Vancouver’s ships at the age of six.
A concrete ring surrounds the gravesite, engraved with quotes honoring the chief.
To get to the Chief Seattle gravesite, you’ll need to take a ferry if you’re in Seattle. The best way is to catch the ferry to Bainbridge Island, then proceed off the highway up 305. Right after you’ve gone over the Agate Pass bridge and see the Clearwater Casino on your left, take a right onto Suquamish Way. Go all the way down Suquamish Way until you start to see the water, cultural center, etc., and swing a sharp left onto South street. You’ll see signs there to turn to the left to get to his gravesite.
Bruce Lee (1940-1973) and Brandon Lee (1965-1993)
How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty, and yet it all seems limitless.
-from Brandon Lee’s gravestone
Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco but raised in Hong Kong. However, he lived and worked in Seattle when he first came back to the US, attending UW and opening his first martial arts school here.
Bruce died young, and Brandon moved to Seattle with his family. Like his father before him, Brandon Lee also died too young, while filming The Crow in 1993.
Where are they buried?
Bruce and Brandon Lee’s gravesite are next to each other at Seattle’s Lakeview Cemetery.
Both have moving words inscribed on their stones, and people still come to leave offerings regularly.
Also at Lakeview:
Lakeview is a lovely cemetery just to take a stroll, with a view of the lake (as the name implies) and blossoms in the Spring. It’s also the resting place of many of Seattle’s founders. Look for:
- Princess Angeline, Chief Sealth’s Daughter
- Thomas Mercer
- Henry Yesler
- The Denny family
- “Doc” Maynard
- Mary and Conklin and Lou Graham, who were both known for running brothels in Seattle’s wild early days.
I also enjoyed a little bench in this cemetery with a sayings on each of its four sides marking things in each direction the departed enjoyed. When it seemed familiar, beyond my, perhaps, having seen it there before, I remembered that Robert Fulghum wrote of it in one of his wonderful essays.
If you want to get to Bruce Lee’s gravesite, it’s best to get GPS directions if you’re not familiar with Seattle. Yet, it may steer you wrong! The main entrance to the cemetery is on 15th Ave E. Apple maps may try to confuse you by taking you on Howe street and telling you to turn down something called “cemetery road.”.”
Once you get to the entrance of the cemetery, you can drive-in. Cars just pull over to the side of the road when they reach the area they want to stop.
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)
I’m the one that’s got to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to.
-Jimi Hendrix, Bold as Love
When Jimi died of a drug overdose in 1970, his family only had funds for a modest stone for him. A cemetery volunteer or employee recounted some vandalism going on at Jimi’s grave in the early years, as many fans flocked to the cemetery to pay respects.
Jimi’s father, Al, later got the rights to his son’s musical catalog, and the family purchased a large family plot and then erected this memorial in 2002.
Where is he buried?
Hendrix is buried at Greenwood Memorial Park cemetery in Renton (south of Seattle).
His memorial now features a large pergola with a central guitar surrounded by frescoes of Jimi, his family, and his song lyrics. A giant sundial sits to one side of the pergola. A nearby sign from the family reminds fans to be respectful, keep the memorial tidy, and “stay experienced.” And it seems that fans do. Fans always need to leave something behind, it seems, and, for Jimi, they offer guitar picks stashed in the “strings” of the bronze guitar.
Seattle likes to memorialize one of its most famous residents — it’s home to several Jimi memorials, though this is his final resting place. Busts of Jimi are also located:
- Near Seattle College on Capitol Hill, at Woodland Park
- Near the African Savannah
- At my alma mater of Garfield High School (where it even sat in my day).
To get to the Jimi Hendrix gravesite from Seattle, take I-5 southbound, take exit 154 A toward I-405 northbound, then take exit 4 toward Bronson Way/WA-900 W. Then take a right on 3rd street and go until you see the cemetery. There’s a parking area near the main building, and it’s not hard to spot Jimi’s memorial once you get there.
But Where Are Other Famous Seattle Graves?
Seattle has other famous deceased residents, no? We’re generally focusing here on people famous worldwide, not just locally, but a few people, including local celebs, immediately spring to mind:
- Kurt Cobain: Only his family knows for sure where the ashes of the Nirvana lead are.
- Ivar Haglund: Ivar’s a local celeb. But nobody really knows where he is. Perhaps keeping clam scattered across Elliott Bay?
- Jeff Smith: The “Frugal Gourmet’s” gravesite is listed as unknown on “Find a Grave; ” his obituary from the Seattle PI said he would be buried in his family parish church.
- Emmett Watson: Another local celeb, writer, and “Lesser Seattle” founder, his ashes were scattered over the water as I imagine Ivar’s to be. His oyster bar by the Pike Place Market is still with us!
- And, of course, there were those celebs who were not from Seattle, but died in Seattle and are not buried here: Carl Sagan, Octavia Butler, August Wilson are some of the better known.
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