Buried at Safeway?

by Steed Dropout
Apr. 10, 2013


Berkeley, Ca

“Buried at Safeway” was to have been an inspirational tale of synchronicity and remembrance.

Even if the funereal memorial marker in the Safeway parking lot was not a grave.

When Safeway excavates its parking lot for an over-due renovation this Spring, what will become of the memorial planted in a well-groomed wedge near the store?

My editor at Berkeleyside was interested until “creative differences” threatened the little yarn.

This is a story of something that didn’t happen. The source for my story was nothing more than a little perceived synchronicity with some half-baked spiritualism thrown in as an after thought.

This is what I call “creative journalism,” a hybrid of journalism and creative writing.

Funeral marker, lower right. Photo by Ted Friedman.


In my mind’s eye version, I stumble on a memorial marker in a supermarket parking lot on the day of the birthday of the girl memorialized there. The very day her mother called her dead daughter’s best Safeway friend. The mother was worried about the fate of the memorial when Safeway’s parking lot is torn up this Spring.

Cherese Henderson, born 3-03-69, died 12-11-98, according to the marker.

This confluence of events led me to “pray” in the aisles of Safeway with a checker who was close to Cherese.

One the day I found the marker, the dead girl’s mother talked to her daughter’s friend about the fate of the marker in the face of soon to begin construction.

With Cherese’s friend, I raised my hands to the heavens, like an NFL star, after winning the game.

But my good fortune ended when I fumbled finding the right way to tell this story at Berkeleyside.


An early version:

If you happen to park near a wedge in Safeway’s parking lot near the lot’s Claremont Ave. exit, you might stumble on what seems to be a grave marker.

Someone buried in Safeway’s College-Clarmont lot? California’s burial restrictions mdash; strictest in the nation mdash; preclude that, according to on-line sources.

I happened on the memorial, which resembled a grave marker, last Saturday, the birthday of the young woman named on the slab. Her mother had talked that very morning to a Safeway employee about the fate of the parking lot memorial when Safeway begins a major overhaul as early as May, according to the store’s manager, Gino Tacto.

The overdue renovation was recently green-lighted after seven years of opposition from neighbors.

Tacto filled in for checker Linda Jordan so she could talk to me last week. Jordon is one of four remaining Safeway employees, who worked with Henderson in 1998, when she died

Jordan tells this story: ” Cherese and me were on the way to taking food to a funeral for the son of a customer who had been killed at Jack-in-the-box. Cherese called the next morning, saying she wasn’t feeling well, then I got a call, screaming she had died only an hour after I talked to her” [of a blood clot in her throat], Jordon recalls.

“She was only 32,” Jordon added, sadly.

The memorial marker was donated by then Safeway store manager, Rich Matasage, said Jordon.

“Did he have a crush on Cherese?” I asked.

“it wasn’t like that,” said Jordon.

“Those memorial markers can cost $1,200 or more,” I noted.

“She was worth it,” said Jordon. “She was a special person: warm, loving, caring.”

Reached Friday, Wendy Gutshall Mgr. of Government and Public Affairs for Safeway said that the Henderson memorial would be spared during renovation.

Safeway parking lot, last week. Memorial marker for Safeway employee. Photo by Ted Friedman.

That’s what I filed.

My editor e-mailed they don’t do first person.

She said she would tighten the piece and make it conform to [strict] journalistic style.

My editors have sometimes been obstacles to Creative Journalism. My editor at Berkeley Times restricts words, such as “journalist” and won’t let me ask questions. My editor at the Berkeley Daily Planet won’t publish copy with the names Robert Gammon, or Chip Johnson, rival journalists. That editor also foreclosed on stories about Berkeley’s vibrant Southside mdash; my specialty.

Now Berkeleyside steps up with its own restrictions mdash; no first person. They would reject pioneering participatory journalist Nellie Bly, Nellie Bly (May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922), along with Steven Crane, Walt Whitman, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Tom Wolf and Hunter S. Thompson.

That’s why I write for you, dear reader, at berkeleyreporter.com, berkeleyreporter-xxx.com and Sex-at-Cal.com.

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