As you travel through the town of Colma, California, you’ll notice that there are 1 casino, 1 bar, 2 shopping malls and 18 cemeteries. So it’s no surprise that Colma is called City of Souls. Woodlawn Funeral Home and Woodlawn Memorial Park serve families from all cultures, religions and backgrounds. Woodlawn Funeral Home specializes in traditional Chinese funeral services. Similarly, Woodlawn Memorial Park has expertise in traditional Chinese burials.
A place for all people
The San Francisco Bay community is very diverse. The team at Woodlawn Funeral Home is well-versed in the cultural and religious needs of the families here. We have team members who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Tagalong, Japanese, Spanish and Vietnamese.
We are very knowledgeable on every step of a traditional Chinese funeral. Outside the funeral home chapel, we have an area for burning paper money and other paper offerings. Likewise, Woodlawn Memorial Park was designed in accordance with the principles of feng shui.
A truly magnificent funeral home
We often refer to our grand funeral home facility as "the castle," because that is exactly what it looks like. The Gothic-style building on the cemetery grounds is made of white granite brought in via train from California's Sierra Nevada mountains. George “The Builder” Skaller started construction on the funeral home in the late 1800s. It was completed on October 29, 1904.
The historic, nondenominational chapel at Woodlawn Funeral Home has stunning stained-glass windows and can accommodate 150 guests. It has modern furniture and a 90-inch TV for sharing multimedia memorial tributes—which we can help you create. The lobby has a large television for broadcasting services to guest overflow. The chapel also houses a historic and rare organ. Purportedly, the company that created the organ produced only 30.
The funeral facility is also home to several gorgeous Italian marble statues.
Not everyone knows that there are many cremation options. If you are interested in cremation, the Woodlawn Funeral Home team can explain the process and the different memorial and burial options. From a direct cremation without a service or a witness to a full funeral service before or after the cremation and more, we help you understand this increasingly common choice.
For families who choose the time-honored tradition of cremation, our full-service funeral home has a private crematory with a witness room. Ours is one of only a few crematories in the San Francisco area to offer a witnessed cremation, and the on-site crematory gives Woodlawn Funeral Home complete control of a cremation from start to finish, which means your loved one never leaves our care. If desired, cremated remains may be buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park.
Our promise to you
Woodlawn Funeral Home and Woodlawn Memorial Park are members of the Dignity Memorial® network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers. We are committed to providing you with excellent service and do our utmost to provide a beautiful and dignified atmosphere.
Woodlawn Memorial Park is one the closer cemeteries to the Colma BART station, making it especially convenient for families who don’t want to navigate San Francisco traffic. We invite you to visit us to meet our friendly associates and tour our facilities.
Please give us a call if you would like more information about our services.
Before Woodlawn Memorial Park was established in 1904 Colma, California, it was the Masonic Cemetery in San Francisco. In the late 1800s, the city and county of San Francisco decreed that no more burials would be allowed in its vicinity. Area cemeteries fell into disrepair, including the Masonic Cemetery. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, all San Francisco burials were moved to Colma and the Masonic Cemetery relocated to where Woodlawn Memorial Park stands today.
A chapel fit for royalty
On October 29, 1904, a truly spectacular Gothic-style chapel was completed by George Skaller on the grounds of Woodlawn Memorial Park. The chapel took approximately 15 years to construct and was made of white granite shipped in via train from the Sierra Nevada mountains. The most notable feature of the chapel is its resemblance to a medieval castle.
Over the years, we have adapted and modernized the interior of the chapel to better meet the needs of San Francisco families. We installed a cremation chamber, and our furniture, sound system and televisions are all modern.
With our long and storied history, there have been many notable people buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park, including Etienne Guittard, the founder of Guittard Chocolate; and Joshua A. Norton, a beloved yet eccentric San Francisco man who declared himself the emperor of the United States and the protector of Mexico after losing all of his fortune in the rice industry.
Honoring our history
Woodlawn Funeral Home and Woodlawn Memorial Park are only a few blocks from the Colma Historical Association. Since 2008, we have used old photographs and documents from the 1900s to make sure the historic look and feel of the cemetery property is preserved and maintained. At the same time, we offer the products and services that today’s families are looking for and strive to meet every family’s needs, no matter their religion, culture or background.
Woodlawn Memorial Park cemetery
Situated on 60 acres of rolling hills with well-manicured gardens, along with palm, cypress and pine trees and stunning views of the Colma Valley, Woodlawn Memorial Park’s beauty and serenity offer San Francisco Bay families a sense of peace and comfort.
Our memorial garden sits on the side of a hill, allowing for proper water drainage—a feature that’s especially important to Chinese families.
Designed with feng shui principles
Woodlawn Memorial Park serves a large Chinese population. Each garden follows the principles of feng shui, and we consult a fortune teller before developing a garden. We also welcome fortune tellers to come to our grounds to ensure your loved one’s final resting spot meets your needs. Our newest development, Moon Gate Garden, has walkways and markers that face east and a beautiful moon gate feature. This premier garden has many options for burial and cremation memorialization. Rose bushes and other foliage surround this gorgeous area.
Wide variety of burial and cremation options
From ground burial, niches, upright monuments and crypts to scattering gardens and private estates, Woodlawn Memorial Park offers many burial and cremation memorialization options. The older sections of the cemetery property have flat markers, but starting in the 1970s, we began allowing upright monuments.
Woodlawn Memorial Park is an endowment care cemetery, meaning it will be cared for well into the future and serve many more generations of San Francisco Bay area families. Please call us for a tour.
Emperor Norton Day
Woodlawn Memorial Park is the burial site of San Francisco’s legendary Joshua A. Norton, aka Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Joshua Norton was a wealthy Frenchman who brought his fortune to San Francisco in November 1849. Eventually, he lost his fortune and became so poor that he had no money for food. And so he made his own money (which was accepted by many San Francisco businesses despite the fact that it was counterfeit) and declared himself emperor of the United States and protector of Mexico. He is also known for suggesting that there should be a bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. When he died in January 1880, he was buried in a San Francisco cemetery; his remains were eventually moved to Woodlawn Memorial Park.
Every year, several groups celebrate Emperor Norton and visit his grave. A group known as the Clampers wears red shirts with suspenders, eats fresh crab, visits Emperor Norton’s grave and then goes to Molloy’s Tavern, the only bar in Colma, to drink and celebrate. The Clampers have participated in this annual tradition since the 1900s. Each March, to honor Emperor Norton’s birthday, the LGBTQ community holds a huge celebration in The Castro. The next morning, we host a continental breakfast for 300-plus revelers at Woodlawn. During this event, we hold a parade from the entrance of the memorial park to Emperor Norton’s grave and an hourlong program that includes laying a wreath, dancing, music and speeches from City Hall officials.
Chinese festivals for honoring loved ones
The biggest event of the year at Woodlawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park is Ching Ming, an annual Chinese festival honoring and remembering loved ones and ancestors. Ching Ming translates as "sweep the grave" and is held the first 2 weekends of April, attracting 3,000 visitors per day.
We rent a large tent for the festival and hire a company to organize 3 fireworks shows. Chinese families bring their deceased loved ones’ favorite foods and set off firecrackers to wake them up. Another important custom is burning paper money so the deceased have plenty of funds in the afterlife. In addition, traditional lion dancers perform and Buddhist monks pray and chant for the deceased. Our Wall of Remembrance is engraved with thousands of names for whom the monks pray.
Chung Yeung is a similar but smaller festival held at the cemetery in October.
Year-round events for the San Francisco community
Woodlawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park hosts many annual celebrations for families: Ching Ming, Chung Yeung, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Día de los Muertos, Emperor Norton’s Day and Day of Remembrance. Further, during the holiday season, we decorate our cemetery grounds with lights and display a life-size nativity scene, attracting thousands of San Francisco Bay families.
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We cherish the community we serve and invite you to join us for our upcoming events.
Cheung Yeung Festival
Saturday, October 5 & Sunday, October 6
Cheung Yeung is a day of remembrance in the Chinese culture. A complimentary buffet, lion dance, firecracker performances and a chanting parade to honor the ancestors.