Traditions surrounding human burials have existed for thousands of years. Just look at the Ancient Egyptians if you need an example of a culture that took honoring their dead very seriously!
Even today, it is not unusual for people to make specific requests in the event of their death. For some people, this means requesting a simple cremation with no ceremony attached, while others want a full burial with an elaborate ceremony and lots of friends in attendance.
Others make requests for their burials that are a little bit out of the ordinary. When wealthy socialite Sandra West died, her burial request was so outlandish it made waves across the country!
Sandra Ilene West, known to her friends as Ilene, was a wealthy socialite from San Antonio, Texas. Together with her husband oil tycoon Ike West Jr, Ilene spent every spare minute of her adult life indulging in all of the finer things that money and privilege had to offer.
When Ilene’s husband Ike passed away in 1968, her passion for the finer things in life turned into an obsession that some folks would call pretty darn eccentric. She was known throughout her neighborhood for her desire to be buried in her favorite car when she died.
While Ilene’s in-laws had Texas roots, she was born and raised in Beverly Hills, where living extravagantly was nothing new. Still, being buried in your car was pretty extreme, even amongst the Hollywood set where almost anything goes!
Nobody thought that Ilene’s request was a serious one, but they couldn’t have been more incorrect. According to Ilene’s handwritten will, she wanted to buried in her 1964 powder blue Ferrari 330 America, wearing a “lace nightgown” with the seat reclined to “a comfortable angle.”
When Ilene passed away from an overdose of prescription drugs in 1977, her final will and testimony were turned over to her brother-in-law Sol West to carry out. When Sol learned what Ilene wanted, he was flabbergasted.
Sol did not want Ilene to be buried in such a fashion, but Ilene had made sure she would get the burial she wanted. She said in her will that if Sol did not honor her request, he would get $2,000. However, if he did honor it, he would receive $10,000 from her estate.
Sol could not believe that a handwritten will with such a ridiculous request could possibly hold up in court, so he took the will before a judge to get a ruling. The judge wasted no time at all reaching a decision: the will was binding.
After a temporary burial, while they ironed out legal details, Ilene finally got her final wish. She was buried, propped up in the front seat of her car, at San Antonio’s Alamo Masonic Lodge Cemetery, with a crowd of curious on-lookers watching the whole thing.
Once the box containing her corpse and her car were lowered into the ground, a team of men covered the entire gravesite with concrete. Grave robbery wasn’t common in San Antonio, but neither was burying a valuable collectible car.
Poured concrete might sound like an extreme measure, but when you consider that today this car is worth $493,000, you can definitely see where the gravediggers and Ilene’s family were coming from when they decided to up security on the gravesite.
The crowd that gathered at the cemetery that day had hoped to get a glimpse of Ilene herself, dressed up in her finest negligee seated at the wheel of the car, but they were in for a very big disappointment on that front.
Sol smartly had Ilene, her nightgown, and her precious car all placed inside a hermetically sealed box. This didn’t just keep her safe from prying eyes, but could also preserve the remains and the car they were resting in.
For all of her larger than life qualities, the truth is that at the end of the day, Ilene was a devoted wife to her husband who never truly recovered from the death of her beloved husband Ike West Jr., nine years earlier.
That is why instead of being buried in Beverly Hills, her home at the time, she requested that she be buried next to her husband in the family plot back home in her native San Antonio. It’s a sweet gesture that is often overlooked.
During her prime, Ilene was a figure of celebrity. She went on dates with Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Nicky Hilton. But it wasn’t until she met the larger-than-life Ike West that she realized she had finally found her match in love, and in zest for life.
Zest for life led to Ike’s early death, and later on would be the cause of Ilene’s as well. Inspired by the Pharoahs of Egypt, she saw her burial as one last grand gesture for the masses before going to be with her husband in the great beyond.