John Wayne’s Grave Went Unmarked for 20 Years: Here’s Why

by Matthew Wilson
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It’s almost fitting that John Wayne was buried under a tree. The unmarked grave was often a fitting end for a cowboy, like the many the actor played. A simple cross on some prairie trail.

After he died in 1979, Wayne’s grave was unmarked for almost 20 years. For such a public figure, Wayne’s family held a private funeral for the actor. A line of security kept the prying public eye away while they mourned Duke Morrison. To preserve Wayne’s privacy and peace at the cemetery, the family decided not to put a name on his grave.

“You want him to rest in peace. We didn’t want to make a shrine,” his son Ethan Wayne told the L.A. Times. “It’s more out of respect for the people that are out there. They don’t want their loved ones’ graves trampled on.”

Wayne is buried at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach on a hilltop near the ocean. The cemetery refuses to acknowledge the location of his grave. But you can find the directions online with a little searching. It is a fitting final resting place. For years, the actor lived in the area, often sailing around the water on his boat. The nearby airport even renamed itself in Wayne’s honor after the actor’s death.

John Wayne Gets a Headstone

During the following decades, Wayne’s family have softened their stance in regards to fans visiting the actor’s grave. Finally, in 1998, his family gave him a marker. Rather than make a monument to the stars, they opted for a simple plaque with Wayne’s name and a quote from the actor.

Photo credit: David Mcnew/Getty Images

Additionally, the actor’s son thinks it appropriate that fans come and see his father’s resting place. After-all, so much of Wayne’s adult life was in the public sphere.

“I personally think it’s wonderful that people want to go see him,” Ethan Wayne said. “He was a public person. He had a relationship with his family. But he also had a relationship with his fans. His fans allowed him to lead his lifestyle… He spent probably three to four hours a day just answering fan mail. Every letter got answered. They like him. If they want to go see him, I think it’s wonderful. He had a tremendous impact on people.”

In the years that follow, several fans have made the pilgrimage to give their respect to the on-screen cowboy. But many still, don’t realize a Hollywood legend is buried nearby.

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