Elgin cemetery walk draws large crowd in 25th year
Frances Pask was an Elgin carpenter paralyzed by a fall during a roofing project in Wisconsin in 1913. The man stayed in Sherman Hospital until he died 27 years later, thanks in part to his mother's donation of her home to the hospital for a promise her son would be cared for his entire life.
Jim Anderson, portraying the former Elginite during the 25th annual cemetery walk through Bluff City Cemetery Sunday, described Pask's life in the hospital. Sherman had a nursing school that welcomed a steady stream of new, young students each year, many of whom were eager to care for the lifetime patient.
"For an old man, it doesn't get much better than that," Anderson joked, in character.
The Elgin Area Historical Society ran out of handouts about halfway through the walk as an unexpectedly large crowd filed through for the milestone anniversary.
The book, "Silent City: A History of Elgin's Cemeteries," was released Sunday as well, listing the people portrayed in all 25 walks and the actors who played them, along with the history lesson promised by its title.
The book's author, Steve Stroud, and his wife, Laura, are the lead organizers of the cemetery walk, originally started by Jerry Turnquist. Ten former Elginites were portrayed this year, including George and Mary Lord, prominent Elginites who bequeathed Lords Park to the city, and John Park Brown, who moved to Elgin from Scotland and spent 40 years working at the Watch Factory. Marge Edwards, of the Dundee Township Historical Society, also presented on Victorian superstitions and guides stopped groups along the way to offer interesting notes about gravestones and cemetery history.
Sandy Cloud, of Buffalo Grove, took the tour for the second time with her friend Norine Lester, of Elgin, who said she comes as often as she can.
"It's a beautiful cemetery," Cloud said. "The fact that they recognize the people who lived here and made Elgin what it is today -- the historical significance, it's nice that they recognize it and celebrate it."
Turnquist, delighted that the tradition he started has continued for so long, said the size of Bluff City Cemetery means the historical society will never run out of options of people to bring to life for the tour, which does more than give people a nice walk through the cemetery grounds.
"It helps you learn about history but also lets you reflect on what you leave behind when you pass on," Turnquist said.