Sunnyside Cemetery: Intertwined with History
Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

sunnysideArt1A cemetery can be more than just a final resting place and focal point for memories – it can be a place of historical significance. Such is the case for Anderson-McQueen’s Sunnyside Cemetery, the third oldest cemetery in St. Petersburg, located across from NE High School on 19th Street and 54th Avenue North.

Like many other cemeteries, it began as a private family burial site for the original owner of the property, Nathaniel Ellis. Around the turn of the century, the property was sold to John O’Berry and in 1905 the Sunnyside Cemetery Association was formed. Unfortunately, over the years, the cemetery had fallen into a state of disrepair and in 1984 a group of local funeral directors purchased the cemetery with the hope of cultivating this pioneer graveyard into a functional cemetery once more. Although early attempts were marginally successful, it wasn’t until 1993 when the McQueen family purchased the cemetery that Sunnyside once again sprang to life. “As a pioneer family in St. Petersburg, we recognized the historical nature of this cemetery and we wanted to preserve and enhance it for generations to come,” stated John McQueen, cemetery president.

Thousands of people have been buried at Sunnyside Cemetery and collectively their life stories have spanned more than half of our nation’s history – from living through the Civil War to seeing a man walk on the moon, and beyond. But, did you know that one of our residents’ has his portrait on display in both the Smithsonian Institute and the Library of Congress?

The Hoxie/Day gravesite at Sunnyside recognizes the efforts of Walter John Hoxie and his daughter, Mary Russell “Cappy” Day, who were instrumental in establishing girl scouting in America and locally in St. Petersburg. Mr. Hoxie, recognized as an important naturalist and ornithologist, authored the first Girl Scouts Handbook. Originally from Rochester, NY, he developed a love of nature and birds in his youth. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, he became an educator and surveyor and developed his skills as naturalist here in the South. He also held a nature study group for about sixteen girls on Saturdays. These girls would go on to become one of the first two patrols in the Girl Guides of America, which was formally established by Juliette Gordon Low (with the help of Hoxie) in Savannah in 1912. The name was quickly changed to the Girl Scouts of America and in 1913 Mr. Hoxie wrote what became known as the first Girl Scouts Handbook, “How Girls Can Help Their Country.” In 1927, he moved to St. Petersburg to live with his daughter, Mary Russell Day, and wrote articles about nature for the Evening Independent (the nightly edition of the St. Petersburg Times). Mr. Hoxie died on July 30, 1934 at the age of 86.

sunnysideArt2In 1924, Mary Russell Day, as a direct result of her father’s interest in scouting, established the first local Girl Scout troop and is credited with bringing scouting to Pinellas County. Since the leaders were called captains when scouting first began, Mary Day became fondly known to all as “Cappy Day”. She was also involved in many other noteworthy projects locally including the original parcel wrapping station near the Open Air Post Office in downtown St. Petersburg, which funded the girls’ camping trips; organizing the Animal Welfare League (predecessor of the S.P.C.A.); and establishing the Children’s Home Society. Cappy Day died on January 22, 1964 in Dade City, Florida and was brought back to Sunnyside Cemetery for burial beside her father.

Since the leaders were called captains when scouting first began, Mary Day became fondly known to all as “Cappy Day”. She was also involved in many other noteworthy projects locally including the original parcel wrapping station near the Open Air Post Office in downtown St. Petersburg, which funded the girls’ camping trips; organizing the Animal Welfare League (predecessor of the S.P.C.A.); and establishing the Children’s Home Society. Cappy Day died on January 22, 1964 in Dade City, Florida and was brought back to Sunnyside Cemetery for burial beside her father.

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