OAKLAND -- Among the governors, captains of industry and famous architects whose final resting place is Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery, there are literary and culinary giants as well -- ones whose contributions were brought to life in a special first-ever tour Saturday.
Docents Barbara Gibson and Elizabeth McCune led about 60 visitors -- said to be a record draw for the cemetery's bimonthly free tours -- on a walk through time as they discussed chocolate magnate Domingo Ghirardelli, Popsicle inventor Frank Epperson and California's first poet laureate, Ina Coolbrith.
The docents tried to liven up the tour, offering little refreshments or performing special readings at many stops to remind visitors of the art and products these famous people created.
"Normally we have about 20," McCune said of tours, adding that the fascination with culinary figures was a likely draw. "That's very key to the whole thing."
Gibson was inspired to create the tour after realizing the culinary talent that lies in rest at Mountain View, located at 5000 Piedmont Ave.
"Oh, chocolate. Oh, olives. Oh, coffee," she remembers thinking. "We should do food."
Within Mountain View's 226 acres, there are plenty of names that figure prominently into regional nomenclature, including Samuel Merritt and Joseph Stickney Emery. With its rolling hills and vistas of downtown Oakland, San Francisco and the bay, it is also the final resting place of Hearst
Inside the Main Mausoleum, where Hoover Dam builder and automaker Henry J. Kaiser is interred, the docents poured nonalcoholic Mai Tais, a drink made famous in America by Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron, who is also laid to rest there. As visitors sipped from Dixie cups outfitted with tiny umbrellas, Gibson said Bergeron "would be turning over in his grave" if he knew all the nonalcoholic ingredients now put into Mai Tais.
Sisters Erin Doeschot and Antoinette Von Stade were born in Oakland but grew up in Hayward. They had visited the cemetery before but didn't realize how many famous people are buried there.
Doeschot, a teacher, said she didn't realize that the Bay Area's Weibel Family Vineyards was originally run by Josiah Stanford, brother of former Gov. Leland Stanford, for whom the university is named. Dental hygienist Von Strade said learning about Trader Vic's history was fun.
"This is just a cool thing," Von Strade said of the tour.
The tour also included details about "Yukon Jack" Leroy McQuesten, an explorer for whom the Canadian whiskey was named; and Oakland librarian and poet Coolbrith, a mentor to Jack London, who later wrote movingly about her.
Kathleen Mohn has visited the cemetery before but didn't realize its full history.
"I haven't known who many of the people are except for the obvious," she said."
There will be a general tour at 10 a.m. Sept. 8 and a history tour of architectural figures at 10 a.m. Sept. 22. Tours are usually three hours long. Visit www.mountainviewcemetery.org or call 510-658-2588.