Grave Spotlight

In a way, cemeteries are like libraries. They contain the final resting places of thousands of people, each with their own separate and unique story. Some of these people are famous, and their stories are well known. Most are not, but that doesn't make their life any less interesting or their stories any less worthy of being told and remembered.

Periodically, we'll spotlight a different Los Angeles-area grave. Every person has a story, and we will use this space to tell their story, through their final resting place.

Bruce Swinborne Terry
(May 2, 1917 – July 31, 1938)

Jan. 31, 2024 -- In a remote section of Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum in Altadena, California, in an area that sees few visitors, filled with rows and rows of dark, upright grave markers for people who died generations ago, a white marble marker depicting soaring wings reaching toward the sky stands out.

The marble wings mark the grave of Bruce Swinborne Terry, who dreamed of becoming a pilot and died in a plane crash in 1938 at the age of 21.

Bruce Terry was born May 2, 1917, in Knoxville, Tennessee, the eldest of two sons of Joseph Tripp Terry and Cordelia Eveline Swinborne Terry. Joseph, who was born in California, worked as a metallurgical engineer. Cordelia was born in Illinois. Their second son, Albert Joseph Terry, was born in Knoxville on Oct. 22, 1918.

The Terry family’s roots ran deep in the history of Massachusetts, Connecticut and the United States. On Bruce Terry’s mother’s side, through the Swinborne and Crosby families, his great-great-great-great-grandfather John Crosby (1735 – 1820) fought in the Revolutionary War under Capt. Isaiah Higgins and Col. Thomas Marshall. The Swinborne and Crosby family lineages date back to the early 1600s in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

After brothers Bruce and Albert Terry were born in Knoxville, and after a brief stop in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Terry family settled in Southern California in the early 1920s.

The family home was on Pine Street in South Pasadena. Bruce Terry attended South Pasadena High School, where he was the Senate Club president and a member of the Spanish Club in his junior year, a member of the school band in his junior and senior years, and a participant in the Debate Contest in his senior year. He graduated high school in 1935, while his younger brother, Albert, was a year behind him.

When Bruce and Albert Terry attented South Pasadena High School, the school's principal was John Alman, who had served in that position since 1920. The superintendent of the South Pasadena city schools was George C. Bush. In 1940, five years after Bruce Terry's graduation and two years after his death, Bush, Alman and two other school district officials were murdered by a disgruntled and mentally ill school district administrator.

At some point, likely after his high school graduation, Bruce Terry took instruction as a pilot, and received his pilot’s license. On July 31, 1938, 21-year-old Terry, then a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and a friend, Charles John Hoppert Jr., 20, of Glendale, who was also a pilot, took off from Monrovia Airport in a borrowed single-engine plane, which was owned by Dan Moran of Monrovia, who also owned the airport from 1934 to 1941.

After take-off, the plane executed several spirals, then headed east from the airport. After flying less than two miles, the plane’s engine stalled. The aircraft glided to an open field, the two pilots on board likely hoping to try an emergency landing, but it suddenly dove nose-first into the ground from an altitude of about 75 feet.

Terry suffered a crushed skull and internal injuries. He was taken to Monrovia Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was buried at Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum, in the Sunrise Terrace section.

Hoppert, Terry's passenger, was taken first to Monrovia Hospital, then to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena with fractured facial bones and internal injuries, and was initially reported in critical condition, though he eventually recovered.

After Terry’s death, Albert spoke of his older brother’s dream of becoming a transport pilot. “Planes were the only subject he would ever talk about,” Albert said. “He had more than 180 hours in the air and expected to be able to qualify for a pilot’s job soon.”

Although Terry predeceased his parents and brother by many years, he is not alone at Mountain View. His mother, Cordelia Eveline Swinborne Terry, died on Sept. 15, 1949, at the age of 62. Joseph and Cordelia Terry were returning home after visiting family on the East Coast when they were involved in a traffic collision in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, on Sept. 11, 1949. Mrs. Terry suffered head injuries in the collision and died four days later. She was buried next to her son at Mountain View.

Joseph Tripp Terry died on July 31, 1959, at the age of 80, in Los Angeles, and joined his wife and son at Mountain View. Bruce’s younger brother, Albert Joseph Terry, died on Jan. 7, 1995, at the age of 76. Albert was married in 1942, divorced in 1970, and had no children. He joined his parents and older brother at Mountain View, although only the graves of Bruce and Albert Terry are marked. Their parents are between them, but unmarked.

And what happened to Bruce Terry’s passenger in that fatal crash, his friend and fellow pilot Charles John Hoppert Jr.?

Hoppert, who was born May 18, 1918, in Glendale, California, survived his injuries from the crash and, two years later, enlisted in the U.S. military in October 1940, just before the start of World War II. On his draft registration, Hoppert listed scars on his right hand and left hip, and that his right eye had been operated on. It’s not known whether those injuries came as a result of the crash, although it’s likely that they were.

Hoppert served from 1942 to 1945 as an instrument flight instructor with the Army Air Corps.

Hoppert died on Nov. 23, 2003, at the age of 85, and is buried at Forest Lawn Glendale. He was survived by his wife, a daughter, a son, two step-sons, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by two granddaughters.

Monrovia Airport, also known as Foothill Flying Field, opened on a 35-acre site in 1928. With the film studios of Hollywood only 25 miles away, Monrovia Airport became a popular filming location. Scenes from “The Fighting Pilot” (1935), starring Richard Talmadge; “20,000 Men a Year” (1939), starring Randolph Scott, Preston Foster and Margaret Lindsay; “The Great Plane Robbery” (1940), starring Jack Holt and Stanley Fields; and “The Big Noise” (1944), a comedy starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were all filmed at Monrovia Airport.

Monrovia Airport closed in 1952, and the property was sold for development. The location of the airport, bounded by the Foothill Freeway (I-210) on the south, Huntington Drive on the north, South Shamrock Avenue on the west, and Mountain Avenue on the east, is currently occupied by car dealerships.

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