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Open Letter to Marissa Mayer: Please don't throw your annual Halloween Party at Roller & Hapgood & Tinney Mortuary

Original post made by Professorville Neighbor, Professorville, on Oct 16, 2014

A few days ago I saw fake grass being placed in the driveway at what was once Roller & Hapgood & Tinney Mortuary, Palo Alto's oldest funeral home. The location is on the corner of Middlefield and Addison, directly across the street from Addison Elementary School.

A year ago, Marissa Mayer and her husband Zachary Bogue purchased the property, and rumors have been buzzing around the local community. Low-income housing would go up. A McMansion would be built for the family. A park would be created. A senior complex would be developed. No one knows the answer except for Marissa and Zachary, but it has been nice to think that something positive would go there.

Now there are grumblings that Marissa is staging the defunct mortuary as a haunted house for her elite group of Google and Yahoo friends (Schmidt, Brin, Paige, Wojcicki) and the whose-who of Silicon Valley. Every year, Mayer's backyard and home is transformed into a haunted house and blow-out party.

A few days after the annual Halloween party, Mayer and family are outside handing out movie-size candies and plush animals to the neighborhood kids. Ask any child in the Crescent Park/Professorville neighborhood, and her home is ground zero for trick-or-treaters wanting the movies sized candy bar in the neighborhood. She also puts Martha Stuart to shame with her professionally carved pumpkins and pumpkin patch in front of the home. It is a sight to be seen and every kid and adult in the neighborhood runs there to be part of the excitement.

But getting back to using the mortuary as a fun-haunted-house. While on-the-surface it seems like using a mortuary is a perfect place to create a haunted experience, it is also a place where many of us said goodbye to our loved ones. The community is small, and the number of funeral homes in the entire bay area can be counted on one hand. Most locals only had one funeral home option, Roller & Hapgood & Tinney. Your neighbors, your community, your friends have had to deal with some of the saddest and hardest experiences in their lives, in the exact spot where you will now be celebrating. Not only is it disrespectful to the memory of our loved ones, it's confusing and upsetting to the community at large who lost their loved ones and grieved there.

I hope the rumors are false and that you will not be opening the doors to the mortuary for your exclusive party.

I thank you for making your home open and welcome for the children on Halloween. I also thank you for being so generous to many local causes.

Your Professorville Neighbor

Comments (31)

Posted by James P.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Well stated.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Hear Hear

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 16, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I think the comments above are confusing and upsetting.

The building in question is across the street from an elementary school. Imagine if the building has some decoration for the holidays that livens up that area. I think the children will be happy that there is some community focus on the holidays. I think it is very festive.

People - There are no bodies in that building. They are over at Alta Mesa - or some other alternative - and you can visit them all you want. What you did at that building is commiserate with other family members and friends. You can still do that all you want. Your relatives want their lives celebrated - celebrate the living with some fun and festivity. Go over to Alta Mesa and visit your relatives then throw a party at your house.

Note that many funerals are at churches where all aspects of life are celebrated from birth to death. Visit Baltimore - there is a church in every 4 block area that is now closed and being used for other purposes.

Good for Melissa and her family - it sounds like she has a good heart and knows how to liven up the place. Possible she needs to move the action away from her home and this is a good way to do that. Possibly her neighbors complained about all of the traffic and focus in the area. Who Knows?

Posted by Acquaintance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2014 at 7:43 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Addison Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 16, 2014 at 9:20 pm

I have to respectfully disagree with Resident1.

My children attend Addison Elementary school and actually mourned the loss of their grandmother at this mortuary. They do not need to see party-goers bouncing around the facility like a playground.

I personally find this to be in poor taste.

Posted by Palo Alto Neighbor
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2014 at 10:40 pm

My kids are also at Addison and the last thing I'd like to see or hear is a party at the ex-mortuary. I agree, bad taste.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2014 at 11:10 pm

It is just plain wrong!

Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 16, 2014 at 11:25 pm

I have attended a number of funerals at Stanford Chapel, as has everyone else in this community - or at other religious institutions. It does not mean that Stanford Chapel does not also have baptisms, weddings, and weekly religious services for a number of religions.

Your children and participants are not focusing on the building - but the person the solemnity of the event, and the other people in attendance. I think you are attaching importance to the building which is misplaced - people do not see the building - they see the event. My opinion.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 16, 2014 at 11:51 pm

So someone sees grass being put on the ground and weaves this whole dilemma with all types of information that is private. This person has implied all types of intentions or wishes for a supposed event. I am surprised that the editors even allowed this to be included. It is a fishing expedition.

Posted by Sea REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 17, 2014 at 6:59 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Jealous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2014 at 8:35 am

I hear a lot of what sounds like jealousy in the OP. Sounds like there is more to this than just a choice of party venue.

Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

I'm with resident 1, if you can actually put some joy in a mortuary, that's a step in the right direction. The mortuary we used for my parents is, of all things, a preschool. If I said those smiling playing kids were disrespecting the memories of my parents, wouldn't I sound like a self centered curmudgeon?

Posted by Susan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 17, 2014 at 11:06 am

It is private property...mind your own business!

Posted by A
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 17, 2014 at 12:04 pm

This brings up a bigger issue for me. Because of weird political-religious PC-ness, we've de-emphasized the Winter Solstice celebrations, even though the celebrations themselves are pagan in origin and precede all the religious. This is very sad as the lights, food, decorations, and celebration in midwinter is uplifting and magical. We seem to have transferred much of our need for community celebration this time if year to Halloween. But it's taken on this weird, unpleasant fixation on ghoulishness and horror. I feel absolutely assaulted by the television commercials this time of year. My own memories of Halloween as a child, albeit somewhere colder, were of harvest-time themes, colorful leaves, candy apples, carved pumpkins and costumes, and yes, a few spiders, witches and ghosties in sheets, reflecting the seasonal themes, but none of this elevation of nightmare on elm street as the focus of community celebration. It's nothing like Day of the Dead celebrations, none of the positives. Just horror. It feels weird, shower-inducing-icky-overcommercialized, and most of us deal with enough that makes us feel bad in life that healing celebrations are important for healthy community, I am troubled by the way our society is listing in this horror direction.

I think this ties in to why it feels so unsettling for someone to have that kind of event at the funeral home. Just a thought. Thanks for your openness.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm

A - you have improvised on the original poster by creating bigger "novella" that has no resemblance to any facts to date relative as to why someone is putting grass on the ground. The building is no longer a mortuary. It is just a building that can be used for many purposes by a private owner.

The original poster is dissatisfied that his wishes did not materialize and you are dissatisfied with your perceptions of Horror - also has no relevance to the situation at hand.

Since the owner of the building has small children I suspect that whatever happens - and wherever it happens - will be kid friendly and fun.

Posted by A
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 17, 2014 at 2:01 pm

@resident 1,
You seem to be dissatisfied with community discussion so that most of your post is merely a critique of others, in a way that seems intended to stifle discussion or any opinions that differ from yours - which is far less relevant or appropriate in the discussion than anything you have slammed.

I sometimes wonder why people who have nothing but posts intended to stifle or critique the way others discuss want to participate in forums like this. There are places you can go where that seems to be all people do, attack each other and the way others contribute to a discussion.

You have also missed my point. And the original posters point. I'm sure, too, if there is a party there, it will be geared to families. Nevertheless, it will almost surely be something on a spectrum of scariness or it wouldn't be put in the funeral home. My point again is that Halloween has become a bigger community celebration, at the same time that winter solstice celebrations (far more happy and beautiful) are de-emphasized. These Halloween celebrations fundamentally celebrate at best scaring and ghoulishness. I find this sad, as well as your disrespect of the original poster's open expression of the way they are being impacted by a celebration (focused on ghoulishness, no matter how "family-friendly") at a long-time community space where people experienced such grief together.

Please remember these lists exist so that we can be honest with each other. If you don't like the what others say, you can disagree. Criticizing the posters to stifle discussion or devalue other posters and their opinions is not in the spirit of the discussion list.

Posted by A
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 17, 2014 at 2:09 pm

@Mr. Recycle,
That's a good point, but the difference is that your child's preschool didn't take over a mortuary and make it a school for children that incorporates themes of death and ghoulishness as the focus of the education. If anything, having a regular preschool there is a healing thing for anyone who had memories from the previous purpose.

Since Mayer is a busy mom, more likely this came up as a matter of expediency and was probably planned without thought to her neighbors' concern. If it were me, I would want to know if that's how my neighbors felt, rather than be gossipped about and never given the benefit of the doubt that I might be glad to hear it. Maybe Mayer is, maybe not. But I think the original poster's opinions are worth hearing.

Posted by A
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 17, 2014 at 2:14 pm

PS It's possible the grass merely signals the need to make the walkway safe in an unused space as the rainy season starts, btw. No one is assuming, just expressing how they feel about other possibilities.

Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Jealous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Perhaps it would be even better if the community stopped discussing what she is legally doing with her property.

Posted by Boo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2014 at 4:51 pm

@A, you have taken a rumor, amplified by someone's fantasy of what might happen and seem to be treating it as fact -- "your disrespect of the original poster's open expression of the way they are being impacted by a celebration (focused on ghoulishness, no matter how "family-friendly") at a long-time community space where people experienced such grief together" -- when no such fact exists. And then criticizing a commenter for pointing this out.

In your subsequent post -- "didn't take over a mortuary and make it a school for children that incorporates themes of death and ghoulishness as the focus of the education" -- again treats the original post as fact, when, in fact, it is not. Nor is your statement about what the building might be used for.

The one fact, if you believe the original poster, is that fake grass has been placed on the driveway of a building at the corner of Middlefield and Addison, across from Addison Elementary School. Everything else is rumor, gossip, and baseless speculation, not exactly the kind of high-toned community discussion you long for.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 17, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Well said Boo - note that the original poster did not use a legitimate name but did provide a name for the person who owns the building - which at this time is no longer Roller, Hapgood and Tinney.

Note that Roller, Hapgood and Tinney chose to sell their business to a family that is not in the mortuary business, which is very atypical. If a mortuary business is doing well it is typically taken over by another same type business. Obviously Roller, Hapgood and Tinney cashed out what was probably a business that was not doing well in that location. Mortuaries are no longer family owned businesses but are run by large corporations. There are many laws which may have proven too costly to overcome in that location. Roller, Hapgood and Tinney I am sure are doing very well and are happy. It is possible they were taxed out of that location and have moved on. Happy Retirement Roller, Hapgood and Tinney.
Seems I know something about the mortuary business as I have a female relative in Texas who is in the mortuary business.

Posted by RL
a resident of Addison School
on Oct 25, 2014 at 11:40 am

Ok,folks, She bought it, she can party on it. The Meyers family are transforming the former mortuary into a fun, festive Pumpkin extravaganza. Their hand delivered invites have been, well, "hand delivered" to their Addison neighbors by their adorable son & two (yes two) nanny`s at his side. The title of the invite? "A PUMPKIN PARTY" with a special message to the invited Addison Ave residence: "Be discreet about the location & the invites are for Addison Ave neighbors. First of all, I hate to disappoint the party host but if she wanted to keep the location discreet, she should have been quieter with her remake of the parking lot, 7 days a week of construction & truck deliveries over the past few weeks, & they (Party Host) should have thought twice about the biggest location give away of all, the 1000 LBS pumpkin sitting on the corner of Addison & Middlefield. But, the green fencing will surely disguise the festive ambiance of the discreet location. I get it, Marissa probably doesn't want to draw attention to the location. After all, it is for their colleagues, family, friends $$ & the patient neighbors who live in the thick of it all. The only problem for me? Marrissa & families discrimination of her neigborhood invite list. She forgot to include the Addison Neigbors who live closest to their extravaganza. I am so close to the anticipated event, that I can literally step out side my front door. (or just sit in my car) I have had days of their employees coming-going outside my door & front of my car. On a fun note, my kids have been so excited watching the lights go up, 7 large pumpkins get placed on top of hay piles. Right outside our door. But we didn't make the invite list. We can look but don't touch. My children are disappointed we didn't get invited when their friends on the other Addison Avenue blocks all did get a special neighborhood invite. So now, I am put in the parental role of discuuing with my children about what a neighbor REALLY $$ means to someone like Meyers., Addison neighbors are invited. Except us. (The neighbors closest to tomorrow nights event ) We didn't make the list. We are invited to smell the aroma, hear the happy sounds of invited children, But we didn't make the list. I am going to take a guess, it may have something to do with our "net worth?" [Portion removed.] For the record: I wouldn't take my children to your party, even if we do get a last minute sympathy invite. We will attend the festivities on California Ave where us common folk are invited.

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 25, 2014 at 12:52 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Lets pretend we are Mayer and family -

I like to throw a really fun Halloween Party
I own a large, flat, paved surface that would make a great party location
I set up that space for a fun party and invite friends and colleagues
I ask people to be a little quiet about it because I don't want random people to "crash" the party

I really don't see the issue

Posted by A
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 25, 2014 at 5:33 pm

[Portion removed.] I wrote: "PS It's possible the grass merely signals the need to make the walkway safe in an unused space as the rainy season starts, btw. No one is assuming, just expressing how they feel about other possibilities." Not exactly "taken a rumor, amplified by someone's fantasy of what might happen and seem to be treating it as fact -" the original poster's concern about a Halloween party appears to have been born out. The meaning and celebration of Halloween appears to be evolving, it seems very likely to mean different things to the partier and poster.

I am defending the original poster's expression of their emotion. Whether you agree or not, it was uncalled for to go on such caustic attack against anyone on this thread for an honest expression like that.

Posted by Dnote
a resident of Duveneck School
on Oct 25, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I think if Meyers and family are going to hold a huge event every year in the Addison Neighborhood, as the Meyers family usually does, let them do it but be neighborly about it.. Meyers and her hubby understand the impact their annual event has on their surrounding neighbors and they have always used their best judgement in past years by inviting those Addison neighbors that live next to their home and surround the event. That is positive neighborly mannerism. Good for them. Its like they are saying: " I know my party is going to be a bit of an inconvenience for you-our neighbor- with all the noise, additional traffic, etc.. But, hey, I would love for you to join us..come on over and join in the fun. Eat, drink & be our guest for the event."

Why is this years neighborhood invite list so different for the Meyers family ? Why would they omit their extended neighborly invite to the ones who are so close to their event and who have been inconvenienced the most by the entire process? I am sure the neighbors closest to the former mortuary are more inconvenienced than the Meyers household will be this year since it is not even being held at their own house. The Meyers household obviously changed the location because it was probably to disturbing even to themselves in past years. Come on resident 1, you really don't get it? I am sure if I lived so close and had to tolerate the noise for the past few weeks I would have already called city hall and protested. But,if I was to have receive a friendly neighborly invite, it would have at least helped me to tolerate the inconvenience a little better. I live 3 blocks away and I heard the delivery trucks banging around just this morning . -Saturday morning, on my day off - 9am.

And Resident 1, [portion removed] It was most likely neighbors talking and sharing to other neighbors about neighborhood news. They all probably assumed all of the neighbors were in on. Like every other past year. Sort of like: "I got my invite, did you get yours?" Quote-unquote.

As far as kiss and tell, really resident 1? I didn't even need to hear neighborhood news, read any kind of the party plans or learn about a secret party location from anyone. And I knew what was happening. I have eyes, I see the 1000LBS pumpkin on Addison and Middlefield. I know who bought the RH &T mortuary last year, I know where Marissa Meyers lives and how big her halloween party is every year. I am positive they have zero concern about party crashers because they have guards and invite lists at the gate just to get in. Even the street is going to be a no parking zone. (compliments of our PAPD who probably got an invite.)

Resident 1, i am sure you are on the friends invite list or you are an invited employee of Mr or Mrs Meyers. You have a jolly time at this years Pumpkin Party. You will get to go home after the event is over. I will guess RL will probably need to buy earplugs to avoid hearing the deconstruction noise of taking the party apart for days after it is over.

The bottom line is this; the Meyers family neighborly thing to do would have been for the Meyers clan to extend an invite to those neighbors of theirs -like i am sure RL is- who have to be at the party with or with out an invitation because of how close they live to the event. But somehow, their invite was lost in the mail. [Portion removed.]

If RL is reading, I know your kids will have more fun at the Cal Avenue party. Enjoy yourselves. [Portion removed.]

Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 25, 2014 at 7:13 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Correction
a resident of Duveneck School
on Oct 26, 2014 at 12:31 am

It wouldn't hurt to spell her name correctly. It's in the headline.

Posted by A
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 26, 2014 at 1:57 am

Resident 1's comments are one long series of snide remarks and ad hominem attacks against everyone else who posted. "You are a blabbermouth" "I bet you were a "kiss and tell" person in school." to one of the latest posters. Why is this kind of attack okay here but not elsewhere? Resident 1's posts have degraded into almost unintelligible gobbledygook, but the negative intention to intimidate others and kill discussion is still clear.

Posted by mom of teenagers
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 26, 2014 at 9:44 pm

mom of teenagers is a registered user.

To @ Astreet (a related thread) you are obviously mad that you weren't invited to the party, but since you don't even know the hosts name, that is not a big surprise (BTW it's not Meyer).

Aside from that, neighbors have parties that you are not invited to. Get over it. Mayer and family hosted a fun,family oriented event. I wasn't invited either. My neighbors have loud parties that I'm not invited to. Its a couple of hours. Move on.

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