It is a hilly site, overlooking train tracks and industrial buildings. Despite the rumblings of trains and trucks, it is a quiet, solemn corner of our Northeast neighborhood, and a final resting place for those of the Jewish faith.
Known commonly as Sheffield Cemetery for its proximity to the old Sheffield Steel mill, the true name as declared when the cemetery was founded in 1901 is Tephares Israel. Translated from Hebrew, the name has taken on many English spellings (Tefares, Tiphereth) but means “Glory of Israel.” Within the tall stone walls and iron gates lie family markers with names many may find familiar, with the most recent addition, well-known and loved actor Ed Asner.
Asner was best known for his portrayal as Lou Grant on the television comedy series The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) then his own hour-long drama Lou Grant (1977-1982), but appeared in television and movie roles from the late 1950’s until shortly before his death at age 91 on August 21.
Born November 15, 1929, Asner was the last of five children born to immigrants Morris and Lizzie Asner, and grew up in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Kan. His father owned and operated a salvage yard, Asner Iron & Steel, that is still family-owned to this day. A 1947 graduate of Wyandotte High School, young Eddie played on the school football team and earned the award All-City Tackle before leaving home to attend the University of Chicago.
It was Asner’s interest in radio that led him to play parts in theatre classics. While associating with other young actors, Asner never took any acting classes, and within two years had left college, working various odd jobs, a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, and appearing in plays when the opportunity arose.
Asner returned to acting when a friend invited him to join the Playwrights Theatre Club in 1953. From there it was on to New York, then Califiornia for small television and movie roles. As the character Lou Grant, Asner was awarded five Emmy Awards. He served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981-1985 and was awarded their Life Achievement Award in 2001.
Despite his Jewish upbringing, Asner portrayed Santa Claus several times, including the 2003 film “Elf,” and his distinctive voice led to the role of Carl Fredrickson in Disney Pixar’s “Up” (2009) and numerous cartoon series parts including Spiderman, Batman, Star Wars and The Wonder Pets.
In 2012, Asner appeared in a special performance in Kansas City of his one-man show “FDR’’ as a fundraiser for the Friends of Sheffield Cemetery, with the proceeds going to the restoration of the small chapel inside the cemetery. A wall plaque just inside the chapel door lists Edward Asner as the principal benefactor, along with additional patrons that sponsored the restoration.
In Asner’s 2019 autobiography, “Son of a Junkman,” his closing remark is directed to his late father, who passed before Asner achieved any success in his field.
“I will always be that Kansas City Jew you raised,” he wrote. “More importantly, I will always be the son of a junkman.”
In his personal life, Asner was married twice and had four children, Matt, Liza, Katie and Charlie. He was interred in a private ceremony on September 12 next to his parents, brothers Benjamin and Labe, sister Gloria, and others.
Visitors of all faiths are welcome at Sheffield Cemetery, 6200 Wilson Rd, during regular visiting hours, but are asked to observe respect of the sacred grounds and the departed.