Memories Alive performances

File Photo by HARLEY TOMLINSON

Elizabeth Gray brought Nellie Donegan Reynolds to life at last year’s Memories Alive event. Reynolds performed on roller skates with her family in the 1930s-40s. She loved expensive hats as well.

RENSSELAER — Those who are interested in history know that old cemeteries hold a wealth of information.

The tombstones not only indicate who is buried there but a little about the person’s life. For the history buff or genealogist, a cemetery holds endless stories and that’s just what the actors of the Memories Alive at Weston Cemetery tour will be telling on Saturday, Sept. 18.

Memories Alive at Weston Cemetery is hosted by the Jasper County Historical Society. The event gives attendees a chance to learn about the lives of individuals who are buried at the cemetery and Rensselaer history.

The annual tours began in 2018.

“We have eight actors who presume to be the deceased person in the Weston Cemetery,” said Judy Kanne, Jasper County Historian.

For the last four years, the historical society has focused on different sections of the cemetery and the deceased in that area. Kanne said Weston Cemetery guru Robert “Bob” Schenk has contributed to the stories through his research.

“He comes up with possible people. We have had several pages of possibles, but eight were selected this year because of their uniqueness,” Kanne said. “There are still many, many stories. In fact, some of the people that we mention as we walk around have either been acted about in previous tours or maybe will be in future ones because their stories are so interesting.”

Kanne gave the example that one of the deceased died in the Civil War and is buried in the Civil War Row of the cemetery. Another actor will portray a War of 1812 veteran.

The event offers two performances. The first will be at the Brookside Park Hall Shelter at 11 a.m. and allows people to sit as the walking tour may not be safe for those who are unsteady on their feet. The second performance is a guided walking tour at 2 p.m.

The actors will be near the gravestones as they tell the stories about the deceased. Many of the guides will not only share trivia but also teach the meaning of the symbols on the gravestones.

Kanne said the hands, trees and birds on all have meaning.

“I happen to be one of the eight guides and we give trivia while they walk place to place,” Kanne said. “The actors try to keep their performances down to eight minutes and we have wonderful actors. We have some returning actors and some who are new and pretty terrific.”

The actors include Terra Neidigh, Rob Pfaff, Sean Egan, Jay Covill, Chris Grow, Susie Rayburn, Linda Buschman and Bev Crynes.

“Melissa Smith at the library and Bob Schenk always contribute information, but many of the people do their own research on the person,” Kanne said. “Typically, the people who are acting put their stories together and condense it to eight minutes.”

The decedents this year are Estella Zea (1882-1952), a Civil War soldier, Samual Sparling (1809-1894), War of 1812 veteran Moses Marion (1791-1869), Harry Kurrie (1875-1938), Eleanor Stackhouse Atkinson (1863-1942), Mary Virginia Spitler Hammond (1843-1927), and Martha Sharp (1849-1946).

The event is a fundraiser, but it’s held to educate on the history of Rensselaer and the cemetery. Kanne said the funding is used so the event can continue in the future and many times the money is used for costumes and publicity.

Kanne applauded those who continue to support the event. She noted that many people are fans of the tour because “it’s not music or a play, but it is very unique.”

Tickets are available at Jordan’s, Brown’s Garden and Floral Shoppe and Eventbrite.com.

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