It is claimed that the hot oil soaks into the skeletons and preserves them so that they will last thousands of years. Dr. Gee Wo Chan, who is a veracious man, said yesterday that the bones of some of his ancestors have been kept in good condition 6,000 years.
Vercoe said that altho the cemetery had bought back many single graves from Chinese owners, there are still some lots owned by them. If the Chan family owned one of those lots (a lot contains two or more graves) then Chan could be buried in Rosehill beside his first wife, Mary. The Chan family, however, said that they owned only a single burial plot where Mary Chan is buried. Rosehill has a rule against burying two bodies in one grave, as is done in some cemeteries, Vercoe said.
In replying to criticism of the cemetery based on the refusal to permit Chan to be buried near his first wife, Vercoe pointed to the fact that "no one gave us either Mrs. Chan's first name or the date of her death. With 150,000 persons buried in Rosehill we must have at least those two facts."
"Wew have complete records of all persons buried here, but we have to have this information in order to find the facts in the records," Vercoe said. "We found one person by the name of Chan was buried here about 20 years ago, but being unfamiliar with Chinese, we do not know whether it was a man or a woman. If the matter was so important, why did not someone supply us with these two bits of necessary information?"
"When the cemetery limited the sale of graves or lots to Caucasians it had nothing to do with race, but with quaint burial customs of the non-Christian Chinese. They often disinterred their dead to burn the flesh from the bones over a charcoal grill; polish the bones, and pack them into tin boxes for shipment to China for final burial. If it had been a matter of cremation it would have been simple. But they had to have the bones. Adjoining lot owners protested the scenes and the stench."
"The cemetery simply faced a practical situation that had to be changed. We are not a bit sorry about the decision and we are not offering apologies for it."
So there you have it. You can just imagine the horror of nearby lot owners who stopped by for a cemetery visit only to encounter the Chinese Coroner burning the flesh from bones taken from a nearby open grave.
Obviously all that has changed now. Deed restrictions like those that only permit sales to Caucasians have been declared illegal. A drive around Rosehill today would reveal the graves of many Chinese, but in all my visits there (and there have been hundreds over the years) I have never seen anyone boiling bones - Chinese or any other. This is an interesting story of how ethnic burial customs change over time as immigrants are assimilated into the customs of America. But I can tell you for a fact, that there is not a trace of any Chinaman - living or dead - in Section 6 of Rosehill Cemetery.