Monday, September 23, 2013

Lucas County's history comes to life

We couldn't have asked for better presenters, a better crowd or better weather for Sunday's 10th annual Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour. It was just a great way to spend a couple of hours.

I'm going to post transcripts of the presentations later in the week --- each is a compelling story. But will settle for photos of the presenters today.

Ruth Comer (top), as Maggie Corbett, opened the tour with one of the few truly scary stories involving the cemetery --- and did so very effectively. Everyone involved this year made an effort to dress the part, and that always is a plus. (We're grateful to find people willing to present, so don't try to impose strict dress codes on them.)

Our second stop was at the grave site of Marko "Chicago Mike" Vucicic, portrayed by Albert Butler. While no one there could have remembered Chicago Mike, some had heard their parents talk of him and both Bill Shelton and Ray Meyer, who are attorneys, remembered his brother, John, well. John Vucich, who died during 2002 at age 100, was responsible for bringing Mike's remains from Chicago to Chariton so that they could be buried together here. That made for good conversation. That's Bill center left in the background.

Bill Baer did a wonderful job, both in costuming and presentation, of interpreting Rene Julien's story. All of these stories involve interaction with the audience and there were several questions and related conversations about everything from the progress of railroads across southern Iowa during the 1860s to Rene's occupation.

The combination of Staff Sgt. Patrick Dittmer (now serving in the U.S. Army Reserves after three combat tours) in dress uniform telling the story of his uncle, Carl L. Caviness, Lucas County's first combat loss during World War I, was just amazing and the best possible way to end the official tour. How in the world did he get those shoes to shine so? Neither the World War II veteran present nor myself (Vietnam) could recall ever looking that good.

Patrick is a third-generation nephew of Carl, but credit needs to go, too, to Karoline Dittmer, a fourth-generation niece, who probably worked hardest during the tour --- she hauled the historical society's monster tripod and much smaller video camera from site to site in order to make sure all of Sunday's presentations were recorded.

We walked or rode from the Caviness gravesite to the cemetery shelter house where homemade apple crisp and lemonade or ice tea were served. Everyone settled down on the porch or around the building for a relaxed visit --- perhaps longer than our bus driver appreciated. 

But we were back on the square by 4 p.m. after two hours of touring and visiting. And the job now is to figure out what we do for an encore next year. The cemetery tour is an annual project of the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission. Proceeds are used to help fund the commission's work.

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