Editor’s Note: This is part 11 in a series about the rich history of and associated with East Sacramento’s award-winning East Lawn Memorial Park.
East Lawn Memorial Park serves as the resting place for many notable Sacramentans of the past.
In addition to those who have been featured in previous articles of this series, there are many others who were interred at East Lawn who have stories worth being retold.
One of the more notable people who made their post mortem home at East Lawn was movie and television actor Neville Brand (1920-1992), who was interred in the two-story mausoleum at East Lawn.
Brand, who was born in Griswold, Iowa and raised in Kewanee, Ill., served in the Army as a platoon sergeant in Europe during World War II.
His many Army decorations included a Purple Heart, as he was struck by a bullet in his right arm.
After residing in New York’s famed Greenwich Village, working in off-Broadway shows and attending drama school in Los Angeles, Brand began his film career in Hollywood in 1949.
Among the films Brand appeared in were “Stalag 17” (1953) with William Holden, “Love Me Tender” (1956) with Elvis Presley, and “Bird Man of Alcatraz” (1962) with Burt Lancaster.
On television, Brand was seen playing roles in episodes of such series as “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” “Rawhide,” “Tarzan” and “Kojak.”
Brand, who resided in Sacramento for about the last decade of his life, passed away at Sutter General Hospital on April 16, 1992, three days shy of his 72nd birthday.
When it comes to music, East Lawn is well represented through Dick Jurgens (1910-1995), who gained his fame as a prominent composer and big-band leader during the 1930s and 1940s.
Jurgens, who was a 1933 graduate of Sacramento Junior College (now Sacramento City College), wrote his theme song, “Day Dreams Come True at Night,” in the college’s instrumentation class of music, which was led by its director David Burnham.
While attending the college, Jurgens and his orchestra performed at school events, including a Halloween dance on Oct. 30, 1931 and the Art Ball on Nov. 7, 1931.
Jurgens signed with Decca Records in the 1930s and performed at various sized venues in Sacramento, San Francisco, Berkeley, Catalina Island, Chicago, Denver and elsewhere.
Today, there are many people who grew up in Sacramento during the big-band era who recall the music of Dick Jurgens.
The marker on Jurgens’ grave appropriately includes a G clef musical symbol and the words, “Day Dreams Come True at Night.”
Also interred at East Lawn was Democrat Robert Takeo “Bob” Matsui (1941-2005), one of the most notable Sacramento-born politicians.
After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963 and the Hastings College of Law three years later, Matsui founded his own law practice at 1214 F St. in 1967.
During the 1970s, he served as a member of the city council, including his time as the city’s vice mayor in 1977.
A year later, Matsui was elected to Congress, following the retirement of Rep. John E. Moss, and he represented Sacramento in the U. S. House of Representatives for a quarter century.
Matsui, who was interred at the Tule Lake, Calif. relocation center with his family following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, co-sponsored a 1988 law that preceded the federal government dispersing $1.6 billion to Japanese-Americans, who had been interned and their heirs.
His activities also included leading the congressional effort to preserve Social Security and serving as regent of the Smithsonian Institution.
Locally, Matsui was a leader in the efforts to ensure federal assistance for flood control, light rail, parks and housing projects.
In response to the news of Matsui’s passing, former President Bill Clinton and his wife, U. S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, issued a statement, which, in part, read: “Bob Matsui leaves behind a rich legacy of service that improved the lives of his own constituents, all Americans and people throughout the world. He also leaves a loving family and a legions (sic) of friends who were touched by his grace and goodness.”
Another notable Sacramentan who was interred at East Lawn was Frank Fat (1904-1997), the founder of Frank Fat’s restaurant at 806 L St.
Today, this business has the notoriety of being Sacramento’s oldest eatery that has been operated by one family in the same location.
An early advertisement for Fat’s restaurant reads: “Most beautiful Chinese café, regular Chinese and American dinners served daily, featuring charcoal-broiled steer steaks, private banquet room for parties, clubs, lodges, etc., finest mixed drinks served in our cocktail lounge.”
As the popularity of Fat’s restaurant grew, so did the number of the Fat family’s restaurants. The first of these non-L Street restaurants was located at 2312 Watt Ave. in Country Club Plaza, accompanying the Stop-N-Shop grocery store in the Gourmet Lane food court.
Fat, a Canton, China immigrant who interacted with many notable political figures at his L Street restaurant, would eventually become involved in politics himself. This involvement included his work as a lobbyist for the interests of Chinese-Americans.
He later assisted in the founding of the Chinese-American Council of Sacramento.
Fat retired from his many years in the restaurant industry in 1971 and passed away on April 5, 1997, about a month prior to his 93rd birthday.