MORBID CURIOSITY: Celebrity Tombstones Across America | home
AALIYAH | Lucille Ball | Milton Berle | Les Brown | Karen Carpenter | Charles Chaplin's Son (Little Mouse) and Buckwheat | James Dean | The Del Rubio Triplets Minus Two | Morton Downey Jr | Roy Rogers and Dale Evans | Richard Farnsworth | John Gotti | Vince Guaraldi | Harry Houdini | Meyer Lansky | Liberace | Julie London | Raymond Massey | Marilyn Monroe | Jim Morrison | Carroll O'Connor and his son Hugh | Papa John Phillips | Elvis Presley | Mario Puzo | Claude Rains | Joey Ramone | The Rat Pack: Frank, Dean, Peter, and Sammy | STUDIO 54 owner Steve Rubell: Pasha of Disco | Gene Siskel | Ann Sothern | Andy Warhol
February 8, 1931 - September 30, 1955
Dean was born in Marion, Indiana, a small farming community, tens miles north of Fairmount. Although the family lived a comfortable life in Indiana, they chose to move west to California for a better life. Young James’ life seemed typically normal until, at age 9, his mother died and he was sent back to Fairmount, alone, to be raised by his paternal aunt and uncle while his father remained behind in California.
While James attended Fairmount High School in 1945, he became interested in acting. He placed first in the Indianan State Contest of the National Forensic League with his presentation of "The Madman" by Dickens. After graduation, he left Fairmount to be with his father in California and to pursue a
career in pictures. There he attended UCLA where he became a theater major. His first real acting job was in a Pepsi commercial for which he earned $30. Soon he received bit parts in a couple of movies, but still he longed for more roles of substance. In September, 1951 Dean left Hollywood’s tinsel to pursue the serious roles that the New York City stage had to offer. There he was cast in several live television dramas before being cast in his first Broadway play, "See the Jaguar." It was in this Broadway play that director Elia Kazan spotted the young Dean. Kazan arranged a screen test for him and then cast him in John Steinbeck's classic "East of Eden." From there he went on the make films like, "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant." After completion of his first real famous film,”East of Eden,” Dean purchased a Porsche Spyder 550 to celebrate his success. James had always had a great interest in car racing, and participated in many small races, as long his film schedule would permit it. On September 30, 1955, Dean decided to drive with friend and mechanic, Rolf Wutherich, to Salinas, California to enter a race with his new Porsche. While en route to Salinas, Dean was stopped by Highway Patrolman Otie V. Hunter who issued him a speeding ticket at 3:30 pm, just outside Bakersfield. Dean was clocked at what would typically be considered a snail’s pace for him, 70 mph.
This was not good for Dean, he had just finished a commercial for highway safety and did not need the gossip magazines to find out about his speeding ticket, especially after his preaching about the evils of speed on the highway. The highway patrolman had only succeeded in momentarily slowing Dean’s speed, soon he was once again speeding and driving recklessly along Hwy 446 (now renamed Hwy 46). Prior to Dean’s horrific accident, witnesses had seen his car weave in and out of traffic at a high rate of speed sometimes narrowly missing cars along the way. On one occasion he almost drove head on into a car driven by Clifford Hord, who at the time was traveling with his two young children and his wife. Clifford had no choice but to drive off the road to avoid a collision. Robert White an accountant from Paso Robles witnessed the accident. He remembers seeing the car speed past him at a high rate of speed, perhaps over 100 mph. Then he thought, there would be no way someone could stop to avoid an accident while traveling at that high rate of speed. Especially if someone were turn onto the up coming intersection ahead. Unfortunately it would be Donald Gene Turnupseed who would find out the hard way that a speeding sports car cannot stop on a dime. As Turnupseed approached the intersection where Hwy 41 turns off, he proceeded to turn after seeing that there were no other cars in close approach. Then out of nowhere, the sports car was on top of him. Donald slammed on his brakes and turned his wheel to the right to avoid the crash, but it was too late. John White watched the whole accident transpire before his eyes. He saw Dean’s car try to swerve to avoid the collision to no avail. Dean’s car flipped a few times before landing next to a telephone pole, just barely missing it. The other driver, Turnupseed, had minor injuries in contrast to the others, he sustained just a few cuts and bruises. Dean’s companion had been thrown from the car and was lying on the ground approximately six feet from the driver’s side of Dean’s Porsche. Dean and his friend were still alive. It was unknown to those at the scene, the extent of Dean’s injuries. He was barely conscious and bleeding also his arms were limp and twisted. A nurse, Mrs. Coombes, that was passing by the accident stopped to see if she could assist anyone. She saw right away that Dean’s neck had been broken and that he had a faint pulse. Soon he would be dead from his injuries at the scene of the accident.
Friend Bill Hickman who had also been traveling to Salinas for the races, had finally caught up with Dean at the intersection. He recognized the wrecked Porsche as Dean’s car and ran over, only to see his friend moments before his death. Hickman held Dean in his arms as the ambulance drove up. Then suddenly Dean stirred and then he let out his last breath. This young man was gone before his time, all because of a stupid preventable accident. Dean was brought to the War Memorial Hospital in Paso Robles were he was officially pronounced dead by Dr. Bossert, the doctor that was on duty that night. He instructed the ambulance drivers who brought him to the hospital to take him to Kuehl Funeral Home on Spring Street. Martin Kuehl was the undertaker that was going to take care of Dean. Hickman had arrived at the funeral parlor to do what he could for his friend. Kuehl gave Hickman Dean's wallet. There was no money; the ambulance men had apparently rolled the deceased star. This was a omen for Hickman to stay close to his friend. Kuehl prepared to process the body. He moved his head and noticed that Dean's neck was broken, perhaps at the base of the skull. The left side of his face was damaged and particles of glass were embedded in his face. Both his upper and lower jaw was broken. His face had obviously absorbed most of the collision’s impact. The bones in both arms were splintered. The only intact part on his body were his legs. . Officer Ernie Tripke, who was investigating the accident requested a blood sample to determine whether Dean had been drinking. Kuehl had to poke and prod; there was hardly if any blood left in his body. On Saturday, Dean’s father Winton, arrived in Paso Robles escorted by chief of security from Warner's Bros. He met Hickman at Kuehl's where he quietly asked the undertakers to be careful that none of his son's possessions were left behind to fall into the wrong hands. He selected a coffin and handed over the suit he had brought for Jimmy to be buried in. The torn and bloodied clothing were thrown away. Winton had first wanted his son to be buried next to his mother in Grant Memorial Park, he instead chose Park Cemetery, a place closer to the Jonesboro house where his aunt and uncle had raised young Dean. On Tuesday morning, John Stander loaded the casket with Dean's body into the black hearse and began the long drive down Hwy 101 to the Los Angeles Airport. At 10:17pm a Hunt Funeral Home hearse was there to meet the plane as it landed in Indianapolis, Indiana. His body was taken to the same funeral home that a year ago, friend Dennis Stock had photographed Dean posing inside one of the caskets, flashing a victory sign. A wake was held; open to the public. On October 9, Jimmy was buried. The service was at 2pm in the Back Creek Friend's Church, where his Aunt Ortense was organist. It was the largest funeral in the history of Fairmount, with 3000 in attendance. However, hardly anyone from Hollywood had attended. His pallbearers were high school friends and few guys from his basketball squad. After Dean was buried, guards were hired to patrol the grave for two weeks to keep those who might steal a memento from their fallen star away. In 1983, the original headstone was taken, but then recovered, only to be stolen again, but this time never found. It has since been replaced with the one that now sits on his grave. Later, the present stone was also stolen, but recovered after Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Deputy, Aaron Gilman, was driving on a dark, deserted country road one night. Suddenly he hit something, which suddenly tore out the transmission of his car. Turns out the culprit was the missing marker, which deputies promptly carted down to the county jail. It is amazing that anyone could steal the marker because it weighs approximately 400 lbs and it is secured to the base with metal bars and glue. Well it just goes to show you, that you should live fast, die young and leave a good looking tombstone. Sorry...
Directions: From I-69, exit at the Hwy 26 and go left. Go to Main Street and make a right.
The cemetery is a half mile north of Hwy 26, you can't miss it. It is on your left hand side. There are signs throughout town guiding you to the cemetery and once you've entered the cemetery there is another sign pointing to the gravesite
If you are ever visiting the central coast of California, you should visit the crash site in the town of Cholame. There is a restaurant that is located approximately 900 feet from where the actor was killed. In the parking lot there is a monument to Dean. It is this very modern, silvery looking sculpture that explains what happened on that fate full day.
Once you enter the restaurant, you'll notice a non stop array of James Dean photos, articles, and memorabilia for sale and on display. This place looks more like a shrine to James Dean, than it does a restaurant. I didn't want to look at the menu, because I would have gotten
sick if I would have seen James Dean Burgers or something.
This photo was submitted by Ron Greenberg. The photo was taken a year prior to Dean's death at his friend's funeral parlor in Fairmount, Indiana. Apparently his dark sense of humor was rather prophetic.
This is a recent photo of the intersection where Dean crashed.
Here's a recent photo of Kuehl Funeral Home located on Spring Street, Paso Robles, California.
Here's the sign
This is the tombstone that exists today
Here is the monument erected just 900 feet away from the accident scene. I don't know what the signaficance of the little dead bird located on the sculpture.