Forest Lawn launches app to help people explore cemetery

Jul 20, 2017

A new app is helping people find the graves of President Millard Fillmore, former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, singer Rick James, and other prominent figures from Western New York’s past.

The app was developed by Forest Lawn Cemetery and allows visitors to take self-guided tours of the grounds. It uses 360-degree images and turn-by-turn walking directions to provide app users with an immersive experience.

Board of Trustees Chairman James Wadsworth said the mobile app is another way that Forest Lawn is helping to preserve important memories that have shaped the region.

“We are also committed to ensuring that the stories of those who rest within our gates are not lost to the passage of time,” Wadsworth said at a news conference. “Some of these stories are very familiar to all of us, while others are known only to those who play a part in them. Collectively, they are the story of Buffalo and Western New York.”

The free app, available at the App Store, includes a search bar to find anyone entombed at Forest Lawn, which is the resting place for many dignitaries and several historic figures. Director of Marketing and Communications Mark DePalma said the app gives people a new way to explore one of the nation’s oldest cemeteries.

“To our knowledge, there isn’t another institution here in Western New York that’s using this kind of technology — at least in this way. I think given the nature of this place, its expansiveness, and what there is to learn and explore here. It’s going to be a really useful tool, especially within these gates.”

Mark DePalma, director of marketing and communications at Forest Lawn
Credit Mary Catalfamo/WBFO

DePalma said the app represents the continuous evolution of the Forest Lawn tour program, which is currently in its 21st season. The app was funded through a grant from M&T Bank’s Charitable Foundation and provides information on over 20 locations throughout the cemetery. Additional locations will be added to the app over time.

Shelly Drake, president of the M&T Charitable Foundation described the tour app as a leap forward for Forest Lawn, making it one of the most progressive cemeteries in the nation.

Forest Lawn President Joseph Dispenza noted that the app allows people to visit Forest Lawn, even if they aren’t in Buffalo.

“There really are people, many of whom you know, who are either homebound or live hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. So their Forest Lawn, even if their family is here, is a vague memory of a time when perhaps they were more mobile. Today, it’s in their home, anytime, any hour, any day, when they want it.”