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The fascinating tales of the dead

Some people in history are remembered in the pages of books and the stories passed on from generation to generation, no grave marker necessary.

Others are memorialized with a headstone, yet their stories are more obscured by time.

And still others are lost to time, with no personal marker at their resting place.

George Washington is, of course, among the first set. We know where his resting place is.

Millard Wright is among the second set. He and a few other late Butlerites were remembered in a most honorable fashion this weekend; with the Echoes of Our Past Cemetery Walk hosted by the Butler County Historical Society.

Also this weekend, about 260 people who died during the influenza epidemic of 1918 were remembered with a new marker at the site of their mass grave in Winfield Township. They are, of course, among the third set.

This is all to say the top half of the cover of the Monday Eagle told some pretty remarkable stories about some people whose histories are knowable, and hundreds of people whose histories are harder to know, if at all.

Community editor Paula Grubbs told us about an event at Butler’s North Main Cemetery. More importantly, she gave us a preview of the event in the April 29 edition of the Eagle, in which she described the process of choosing which deceased Butlerites to highlight.

Jennifer Ford, director at the historical society, said five individuals and a married couple would be highlighted this year.

Costumed actors in clothing fitting the era of the person who they are portraying will describe “their” lives at each person’s graveside.

She said finding candidates whose stories will be told at the cemetery walk is the hardest part of the event.

Graves must be accessible, laid out distant from one another so actors aren’t shouting over one another, and contain the remains of an interesting Butler County resident.

“Finding people who fit all those criteria is difficult,” Ford said.

She and her staff peruse the graveyard in search of next year’s potential stories after the cemetery walk is over.

“We pick headstones and start researching, and 80% of the time, there’s just not enough (information) out there to do the story,” Ford said. “We have to write a six-minute script based on their history.”

She said those who died young, lived to a ripe old age, have an interesting epitaph or served in the military are frequently interesting.

This is an awesome way to learn about the history of Butler, as is the black cross in Winfield Township.

Those who died of the flu epidemic of 1918 surely had interesting stories worthy of sharing, but circumstance forced a situation in which their stories were lost to time. The story of their shared deaths is the story most easily remembered.

In all these cases, as Grubbs points out, sometimes a tombstone, no matter how large or ornate, isn’t enough to fully characterize the fascinating life of the person who rests below.

— RJ

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