By Brian Yu:
The Alamo Cemetery, established more than 150 years ago, is the burial site of many. Visitors often come to see the resting places of early pioneers of the San Ramon Valley or World War II veterans, but during the holiday season, they also find something else there- gravesites decorated with flowers.
This is the work of Judy Sandkuhle, the owner of Sunset Color Nursery located in Danville. Founded in Oakland in 1906 by her grandfather, Ms. Sandkuhle moved the nursery to Danville in 1985, where it has been ever since. She specializes in pelargoniums and perennials, works with organically grown herbs, and also grows her own poinsettias.
During the holiday season, Ms. Sandkuhle often has poinsettias left over at her business, and used to take them over to convalescent homes for patients with dementia. For the last fifteen years, though, she has been taking the flowers to the Alamo Cemetery each winter, to decorate the graves for the holidays.
“I looked at the cemetery one Christmas time and it seemed so forgotten, so I just started putting flowers out,” Ms. Sandkuhle said in an interview in early January, “Now, I would say that a lot of the graves are decorated for Christmas.”
Over the years, she’s had help from her friends and their children. “It’s a lot of fun,” she noted, “There are a lot of graves that nobody ever goes to- a lot of World War II vets were buried there, and they’re forgotten.” By decorating the cemetery with her flowers, she’s been able to give the cemetery and those buried there the attention that they deserve.
Ms. Sandkuhle’s beautification of the cemetery has become a pleasant sight for visitors in the community at Christmas. “I think it’s very neat- starting something that the community would see,” she explained, “and the next thing I knew, a lot of people started coming back to the graves sites to decorate, too.”
Sadly however, on December 24, 2012, Ms. Sandkuhle decorated the Alamo Cemetery with poinsettias for the last time. Due to economic struggles, Christmas Eve was the final day of operation for her small business, and she is closing down Sunset Color Nursery. While this may mean that she will no longer be decorating the cemetery for the winter holidays, she hopes that the community of the San Ramon Valley continues the tradition.
“I think the main thing is that even though I won’t be decorating the cemetery anymore, I hope the people who started decorating their family plots and graves keep it up. I hope more people get involved in it,” Ms. Sandkuhle concluded, “Because it’s not about me, it’s not about small business. It’s about decorating the cemetery to brighten it up and make it look pretty.”