Roderick S. (Rod) brown is living the dream of every kid who watched wide eyed every swashbuckling Indiana Jones movie.

Informal and gregarious, his formal title is Principal Archaeologist for The Louis Berger Group, Inc., the world-renowned engineering firm that was selected to direct every meticulous phase of the highly complex Greenwood burial relocation project. He welcomed the challenge, instantly recognizing the importance of the undertaking to the descendants of those interned in the cemetery and to the surrounding community.

“I knew this was going to be a significant challenge, and I was concerned about invasive vegetation and ground water issues, among other things, but that’s what we’re all about: understanding problems and solving them to everyone’s satisfaction,” he explained. “As for the community, it has been very supportive as have the families who have come out to visit during the project to make sure everything has been done in a proper and respectful fashion.”

Based on his observations, Rod says there is no question that the historic cemetery – which resembled more junkyard than sacred ground upon his first visit – was a victim of abuse over many years.

“You can’t turn back the clock, but we’ve done the next best thing and that is to restore respect and dignity through the project,” he explains. “It’s the right and decent thing to do and the new owners deserve a lot of credit for making this happen.”

Rod, through one extreme (near-record rainfall) to another (record snowfall), has supervised the day-to-day field work, managing daily upwards of 40 highly-trained archaeologists as well as heavy-equipment operators. The tools of his trade range from tiny, fine-bristle toothbrushes to enormous front-end loaders.

Looking back over the project as it nears completion, Rod could not be more proud of the work his team has performed in relocating to new, accessible and newly-marked locations within the cemetery, more than 2,000 burials. While he is quick to credit his team of professional archaeologists and skilled equipment operators for a job well done, their precision is a tribute to his extraordinary experience and leadership.

Rod, a veteran of the U.S. Navy submarine service (USS Trigger and USS Henry Clay), has seen much of the planet – above and below the surface. A graduate of Cal State Long Beach with a master’s degree in quantitative archaeology, he has been a practicing archaeologist for more than 40 years. Before joining Berger 10 years ago, he held a number of key archaeology positions, including serving as Deputy Historic Preservation Officer for American Samoa.

So how did he get into the business?

“You might say archaeology was a labor a love,” he explains, joking that his foray into the field was going on a date – which was actually a pre-historic dig.

And what’s next after Greenwood?

“I don’t know,” he says, with a smile. “But I want to be somewhere warm for a while.”


Christmas came early for Betty Ewart.

Betty, 90, never, ever thought she’d see the day when anything good would come of what just a decade ago she recalled as a decrepit Knights of Pythias Greenwood Cemetery. A hopeful person by nature – a fighter who in her 70s won her battle with late-stage cancer – Betty had all but given up hope for the cemetery and its once splendid main house that holds a very special place in her remarkable life. Betty lived in the old house for much of her younger years. Her family operated the cemetery for nearly a half-century, and it is the final resting place of her grand parents, parents, and brother.

Betty Johnson, wearing her high school graduation dress, on a garden bench behind the house of William Hamill, her grandfather. He was the cemetery superintendent for nearly 50 years. (1936)

Betty, eight-years-old, with her parents, aunt and uncle, cousin and her grandfather, Superintendent Hamill (center), father of her mother Bessie and Aunt Violet. (1927)

“Ten years ago we visited and the place was looking awful,” recalled Betty during her Christmas week visit to Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Eastern Regional Medical Center to share her vivid recollections of life at Greenwood with members of the revitalization team. Robert, her son, accompanied Betty.

“For years I felt so bad we didn’t have the money to move our graves like so many others did. That’s how bad things got,” she explained. “It was really bad as a result of the years of neglect and mismanagement, nothing like when my grandfather, William Hamill, and eventually my uncle and aunt operated it. We were meticulous. It was beautiful, the house, the grounds. Eventually it got so bad there were funeral directors who didn’t even want to go in there.”

Betty, entertaining a squirrel on her lap, seated on one of the many beautiful garden benches placed near the entrance in front of the house to create a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. (1935)

Bessie Hamill Johnson and Violet Hamill Foulkrod, daughters of Superintendent Hamill, near a horse and service cart in front of the barn. (1918)

Horrified at the decline of the once grand Greenwood, but now elated by its revitalization that includes the restoration of the historic residence, she smiles easily as she and Bob displayed lovingly maintained family snapshots and framed original records.

“There I am on a bench, and that one is me in a dress feeding a squirrel,” she recalls. “Just look at that one by the horse-drawn cart, and look at that car.”

Betty’s intimate connection to Greenwood begins with her Irish-born grandfather. “My grandfather came to Philadelphia from Ireland when he was 19. He walked up from Kensington to get a job as a gravedigger, and he was there only a few years when they needed a superintendent, and he stayed on for almost 50 years.”

She describes a time of excitement, intrigue and boundless activity as a young girl living in the cemetery superintendent’s house.

Violet Hamill Foulkrod with Shep the dog who was part of the cemetery family. The barn adjacent to the superintendent’s house is visible in the background. (1918)

Betty, three-years-old, standing on the running board of her grandfather’s coupe. The cemetery house is in the background. (1922)

“When there were funerals, my grandfather would ring a bell so the workers knew it was time to gather for a burial. I remember riding in a horse-drawn cart, and then a pick-up truck and we had a cow in the barn, and there was an outhouse and eventually electricity. Oh, how I remember sparks flying along the wires when we got electricity.”

All cherished memories. “The cemetery office was on our first floor, off to the side, and that’s where the vault was, for the money. And my grandfather at the end of each day would lock the vault with a big key and then put it out of reach on top of a cabinet. I remember that.

Betty Johnson Ewart with her son, Robert Ewart, on their recent visit to CTCA.

Family picture frame showing grandfather (Pa Hamill) in front of the superintendent’s house. (July 4, 1935) Ma Hamill, his wife, appears above him in the frame and his mother-in law Eliza Nicholl in the opposite corner. Also shown: his USA citizenship certificate, (1892) and marriage certificate. (1890)

Now living in a retirement community in Lancaster, Betty remains loyal to the old neighborhood. “I still go to the dentist in Frankford and remember the Frankford High Thanksgiving Day football rivalry against Northeast Catholic.”

Looking at renderings of the house as it will appear once restored to its former glory days, Betty says, “This is just so exciting and overwhelming for me.”


Greenwood Cemetery is sacred to me because it is the resting place of my father’s Grandparents, Thomas Rees and Mary Ann Davies and their children , Jane, Elsie and David. It is also the resting place of my Great-Great-Uncle, John Lewis, and his wife Elizabeth.

Thomas Davies (1842 – 1907) was born on farmland near Llangadog, Wales, then moved to heavily industrial Merthyr Tydfil, where he learned iron rolling. Thomas and Mary Ann (1842 -1900) married about 1863 and quickly came to America. Their family, which included eight children, lived in several eastern cities with iron works (Allentown, Pottsville, Syracuse), before settling in North Philadelphia in the 1880′s. Daughter “Jennie” was the first to be buried at Greenwood, in 1889. Elsie died of typhoid on her 23rd birthday, just before her planned marriage, a month after her father passed away. David worked in the steel industry, raised his family in Clearfield Pennsylvania, and was buried here in 1946.

John Lewis (1841-1928), born near Montgomeryville, was among the first to respond to Lincoln’s call for volunteers after Fort Sumter. John walked from his family’s Gwynedd farm, all the way to Doylestown, to enlist in the Union Army. John became a Sergeant in Durell’s Independent Battery of Light Artillery, and fought in 29 southern battles. After the war he first drove horses for a Philadelphia street railroad, then after an injury returned to Gwynedd as a carpenter. John was lauded as a hero when he died on Armistice Day 1928, the oldest surviving veteran living in North Wales. At his Greenwood burial, an American Legion Post was represented and a Boy Scout bugler played “Taps.”

I first discovered Greenwood in 1997. To locate my ancestors’ sites, I first had to assist he custodian in lowering a coffin into the ground. The Davies graves turned out to lie in a wilderness of thick weeds. I took my youngest son Will to visit the site in 1997, but soon the site became totally overgrown by weeds and bamboo plants, and for years I could not find or visit it. In August 2009 the Davies graves were relocated to an attractive, accessible spot, and I look forward to the full restoration and beautification of the Cemetery and the opportunity to help future generations pay their respects to their worthy forbears.

Donald B. Lewis
Attorney and Genealogy Researcher


“Greenwood Cemetery is the place that my grandparents, great-grandparents, and their family were laid to rest in dignity for perpetuity, to be remembered and honored. For decades – starting in the 60′s – I have often wondered if they would “be rolling over in their graves” at the sight of tombstones toppled; abandoned cars and other debris dumped as if it were a landfill; and all forms of neglect that had become the fate of the cemetery. To me this was a sin that, finally, is being stopped under the new ownership as the historic cemetery enters a new and exciting era, one filled with respect, caring and love. My own participation in the monthly meetings of the 15th Police District Advisory Council shows how times are changing, for the better. And I have personally cherished the opportunity to help organize thousands of burial records as we reconnect with the past and plan for the future. My hope is that K of P Greenwood Cemetery will be an example to other cemeteries and the City that cemeteries do not have to be bulldozed over or neglected; there are ways to give them the honor they deserve.

Greenwood Cemetery is special to many, but even more special to me due to its amazing history and its connection to historical organizations and important people such as The Knights of Pythias, The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), Native Americans, war heroes dating back to the Civil War, Dr. Benjamin Rush, W C Fields’ parents, and more. There is so much to learn here. What role did the cemetery’s ‘residents’ play in developing the area? What was the average age of death each decade? What were the common causes of death and did it strike their descendents. It is important we save the historical house and property and learn what secrets it has to offer – for today and for future generations.

I want to be proud that my family is buried there and I welcome the help of volunteers who share my passion for the history of “our” cemetery.”

Joanne Clare
Friends of Greenwood Director


I was nine years old in 1936 when I first visited Greenwood for my grandmother’s burial. She had lived with one of her sons in Harrisburg, so I had only met her once or twice. Afterwards the only time I saw the cemetery was when I passed by on the trolley to and from Frankford. Then in 2000, when my daughter and I visited on a genealogy search, we were shown the graves of my grandmother and grandfather. That day or later we also discovered the graves of: four of my father’s siblings who had died very young and of whom I had never heard of; one of my aunts; and Charles Linde, a cousin of my father and a lawyer who apparently was involved in the founding of cemetery. Some records seem to indicate that in the 1870s or 1880s the cemetery’s business office was located in his home on 6th Street in Philadelphia.

During that visit in 2000 my daughter and I were both concerned about the records book, because it was lying open on a table with bright sunlight streaming in on it. Worried that the sun was fading those records, I joined the Friends of Greenwood to preserve that information. As I gather the individual names together alphabetically, looking back a hundred years there are events in people’s lives that are sad but interesting: a family of four that drowned, a soldier killed in action in Korea, a Medal of Honor recipient, Civil War veterans, 1918 Flu victims and many children who never became adults because of diseases which we don’t hear about today because of vaccines and treatments unknown at the time.

Howard Linde, 82

Graduate of Clara Barton Elementary School and Olney High School
Friends of Greenwood Director