In June of 1925, a special train assigned by the Southern Pacific Railway carried the body of Julius Krutschnitt, Sr., railroad genius and empire builder, to the Metairie Cemetery in his boyhood home of New Orleans. Judging by a trip to the grave site this weekend, he still appears to be buried there, alongside his wife, Elise Minna Kock (1857-1941), and his grandson, Ernest B. Kruttschnitt (1918-1991).
The trains ran a little late on the day of his funeral. In a showing of respect for the former chairman of the executive committee, the Southern Pacific ordered a one-minute cessation of all activity. During the halt, employees stood in silence, paying tribute to a man who had given 48 years of his life to the railroad. Kruttschnitt, who believed in the power of hard work, had retired only two weeks before he died.
Despite the man’s apparent celebrity during his day, it wasn’t easy to find the grave site. In fact, it took the receptionist a good half hour on this Sunday morning to determine it was in Section 11, one of the oldest parts of the cemetery, she assured me. For an anxious moment, it looked like he might not be buried in the cemetery. The clerk told me that many cemetery records were lost in the flood after Hurricane Katrina.
Trudging across the rain-soaked grass lanes, we were struck by the relative understatement of the Krutschnitt monument, compared to some of the ornate ones nearby. The Kruttschnitts are buried among some elite company. The Metairie Cemetery is the final resting place of nine Louisiana governors, three confederate generals, and seven mayors of New Orleans, along with many of the most prominent New Orleans business leaders of the last 100 years.
Though still a very beautiful place, the graveyard used to be an architectural wonderland, with a series of lagoons, stone bridges, and an entrance lodge. The graveyard site takes its oval shape from a vaunted racetrack that was originally here. Today, the noise of traffic on nearby I-10, rather than shouts of joy from wagers won, interrupts the calm.