‘Stories in the Stones’ at Evergreen Cemetery

“Stories In The Stones,” the special program at the Red Oak Cemetery hosted by Calendar Girls, Questers of Red Oak and the Montgomery County Veterans Memorial Court of Honor, will return during Red Oak Junction Days next week.
Diane Brower and Sharon Bradley, Calendar Girls members, are coordinating the program again this year. Bradley said the Questers is a group focusing on historical preservation and education. The local chapter is named “Calendar Girls” after the Thomas D. Murphy Calendar Company. More than 600 chapters of Questers exist internationally, and Bradley said funds raised from “Stories in the Stones” will tie into a grant the group received to perform improvements at Evergreen Cemetery.
“This year, we applied for a $5,000 grant and we got the grant. Questers give those grants for preservation every year. Our goal is to tuckpoint the entrances to the cemetery This year, we have enough money from the grant to do four columns on the entrance of the cemetery,” Bradley said.
Brower said improvements to the cemetery have been on the radar for years, and they are happy to bring it to fruition.
“It was so much money to make the improvements to the cemetery that there was no way we could do it all. Sharon’s idea is perfect. We piecemeal the project since we can’t do the project all at once,” explained Brower.
The idea to host the program came from Bradley, as she had seen a similar program performed in Arizona before she moved back to Red Oak in 2018.
“The Questers had done a cemetery walk in Sedona. Since we have such a historical town, I thought this would be a great way to provide the information to people here in town. Each of the Questers take one of the historical figures and do the research on them. The Red Oak Public Library and the Montgomery County History Center have really helped us to accumulate this information,” advised Bradley. “The Questers that research this write a script that the actors use, and some have historical clothing or we borrow clothing from the Wilson Performing Arts Center, and the actors are dressed as the Red Oak historical figures they are portraying, at their grave sites.”
“Stories In The Stones” will take place from 9:30-11:30 a.m. June 28 at Evergreen Cemetery. Eight actors will be featured: James Norris as Wm. H. Maloney; Andy Rea as Charles Lane, David and Roxanne McFarland as Henry and Sophronia Shank, Kathy Davis sharing the story of Jason Packard and Cornelia; Cece Lock sharing the story of Capt. Thomas Dearborn; Ben Lundgren as Wm. Harding; Dan Crouse as John Welpton; and Jolene Crawford as Laura McGreer.
In selecting a cast, Bradley said they sought people who would be experienced in acting and would portray the person well. They also had to be able to relate to the audience.
“Some of the actors that we had last year, like James and Jan Norris and Kathy Davis are returning for the event this year. Everyone performs the historical figure in the first person. All of the figures this year are from the early settlement of Red Oak. People came in covered wagons or down the river to what has become Red Oak. All of the people being portrayed, their children married because there were very few families in town,” commented Bradley.
Some of the performers also have interesting ties to the historical figures, such as performer Cece Lock.
“In the case of Capt. Dearborn, Cece Lock lives in the house that he built. His daughter is the one that Cece is portraying. She was a dentist, and one of her first offices was where the first hospital in the city used to be years ago,” Bradley stated. “A lot of the actors have stories that intertwine with the other actors they are performing alongside.”
Brower said that performer Dan Crouse also has a geographical connection to one of the historical figures.
“Dan shared with us that they lived across the street from where the man he’s portraying, John Welpton, lived more than 200 years ago. It’s a small world,” said Brower.
As for the timing of the event, Brower said they chose Friday for a very important reason. 
“Sharon wanted to do this because Junction Days needed an event on Friday. The first event even helped us secure one of this year’s performers. I spoke before an event that Ben Lundgren was present at, and I knew he had connections to Wm. Harding, and I took him a ticket last year and asked him to attend the cemetery walk. He did, and really enjoyed it. His grandmother had the original registry from the Red Oak Hotel. He took a picture of the first page of that register and a lot of the names of people that we showcased last year were on that register,” Brower explained.
Bradley expressed the importance of holding the event and keeping it going for years to come.
“I think it’s important that we remember our history. We’ve gotten a lot of interest in what we do, and anything we can get in terms of experience or donations will be very helpful for us in the future. We’ll be sure to pass out information about the Questers regarding who we are and what we do,” Bradley commented.
 Bradley and Brower also expressed their appreciation to all the organizations that have helped with donations or discounts including Hy-Vee, Fareway, Mark Jackson’s Red Oak Hardware Hank, and Family Dollar. Golf carts will also be available to help move people, and the Montgomery County Memorial Hospital is donating chairs for use during the event.
Tickets are available at Pudgy Pumpkin Patch Gift Shoppe, the Red Oak Chamber and Industry Office, or at Evergreen Cemetery. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for students, and kids 12 and under can attend free.
Following the walk, a lunch will be provided on the north side of the cemetery. A free will offering will be accepted.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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