Pictured in front of the chapel are the returning members of last year’s cast, (from left) Loren Fear, Cara Lytle, Judi Robbins, Rusty Lucy, Carol Peterson and Cathy Coldren Weiss.
EDWARDSVILLE — Every stone has a story. It’s life’s tragedies and triumphs and loves lost and found that make both history and cemeteries so interesting.
That’s the basis behind the third annual Voices of the Past at Woodlawn Cemetery. On Columbus Day weekend, actors will recount stories of some of those buried at Woodlawn, next to the gravestones of the very people they are portraying.
Along with the human element, including the lives of people such as Dr. Pogue, Edna Weir and Louise Travous, this year’s Voices of the Past highlights a few of the many interesting and sometimes mysterious monuments in the cemetery. Where did Abraham Lincoln sleep? How was a Confederate soldier buried by the GAR? And what really happened to the Angel?
The stories were researched and written by Edwardsville resident Mary T. Westerhold. Researching lives and genealogy has been a passion and a career for Westerhold, the historian at the Madison County Archival Library. She examines census records, newspaper articles, obituaries, centennial books and especially the social columns from early newspapers that described parties, travels and what people were wearing to events.
“It’s all fascinating to me, especially the 1800s when so many of the immigrants came to this area sight unseen for new opportunities,” Westerhold said. “They found work or farmed, they opened businesses, raised children, got involved in their communities — when you stop to think about it, that’s not so different from our lives today.”
Returning actors include Edwardsville residents Cara Lytle, Carol Peterson, Cathy Weiss, Rusty Lucy, Judi Robbins and Loren Fear, as well as newcomers Nathan Gibson and city Alderman Barb Stamer.
Voices of the Past not only tells the history of Edwardsville, but also features Woodlawn Cemetery, 1400 St. Louis St. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Woodlawn’s beautiful glass chapel, designed by renowned Edwardsville architect Edward A. Kane Sr.
“Through the generous donations made by community members, the chapel has been beautifully restored this year with a new roof and guttering, refinished pews, flooring and interior painting,” Woodlawn Cemetery Association President Kathleen Medder said. “There’s more still to do, but we are grateful to those who have made this possible.”
Many neighborhood residents walk the cemetery for exercise, enjoying peaceful walks with their pets, but few have the opportunity to visit inside the chapel.
“On Saturday evening, Voices of the Past will offer about 40 visitors the rare opportunity to experience the chapel after dark,” Woodlawn board member Barb Pizzini said. “At night, the chapel interior glows, and it is truly magical.”
Voices of the Past will be presented at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, and Sunday, Oct. 9, with the last tour leaving at 2:30 p.m. Guides will lead group walking tours through the upper portion of Woodlawn. The tours will last approximately one hour and include some uneven but not strenuous walking, with stops at seven gravesites to listen to the portrayals. A special evening candlelit presentation will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8. Listeners will be seated indoors in Woodlawn’s hillside chapel near the cemetery entrance. Seating for the evening event is limited, so tickets must be purchased in advance. In case of rain, the afternoon tours also will be presented in the chapel.
Afternoon ticket prices “at the door” are $13 for adults and $6 for children. Advance discounted tickets for the afternoon tours are $10 for adults and $5 for children (11 and younger). Evening presentation tickets are $15 for all ages and will include light refreshments.
Advance tickets are available at the Edwardsville Public Library, Glen Carbon Centennial Library, First Clover Leaf Bank (Edwardsville locations) and at the Madison County Archival Library on Main Street next to the Historical Museum.