Tucked away behind the chapel of the San Fernando Rey de España Mission, a meandering rose garden pays tribute to a man of many talents, American entertainer Bob Hope.
Hope, over the course of his life, seemingly dabbled in everything. Aside from being a prolific and pioneering film and television actor, he was also a boxer, vaudevillian, dancer, singer, stand-up comedian, author, and philanthropist.
Hope was named an honorary veteran of the United States Armed Forces in 1997 for his dozens of tours with the United Service Organization, where he entertained active-duty troops. He also made television history by being one of the first entertainers to adopt the use of cue-cards.
When Hope died at the age of 100 in 2003, a space was designated for his final resting place on the grounds of the San Fernando Rey de España Mission in Mission Hills, Los Angeles. The San Fernando Mission, one of 21 Catholic Missions founded under Spanish control of what is now California, was founded in 1797.
Hope converted to Roman Catholicism later in his life, which partially explains his grave’s location. As recalled by his grandson, however, when Hope was asked by his wife Dolores where he wanted to be interred, he remarked, “Surprise me.” He and Dolores are interred side-by-side in the garden with a half-dome over their tomb, which shields it from the elements.
Other spaces throughout the mission pay tribute to the entertainer as well. In a building otherwise designated as a re-creation of a blacksmith workshop, display cases contain Hope memorabilia, including movie posters, books, photographs, and other items. Also, in the old convent building of the mission, a distinctively-designed organ with a relationship to Hope is encased in glass.
The Ezcaray Organ, so-called because it originated from the Church of Saint Philip Neri in Ezcaray, Spain, was made in the late 18th or early 19th century and may be the oldest organ in North America. The organ was brought to the mission in 1934, and in 1940, it appeared in Hope’s 1940 film Ghost Breakers. Attached to the organ is a framed picture of Hope and his co-star Paulette Goddard in front of the organ while filming.