Families talk about what Woodlawn Cemetery means to them

News-DemocratJanuary 12, 2014 

Maxine Pakovich Callies, of Edwardsville

A lot of cemeteries used to be set up like parks for people to walk through, not a place you're afraid to visit, but a pleasure to walk through. The trails are so scenic and pretty, and the chapel is just beautiful -- you looked out (its windows) and it's like you were in the trees. It's a holy place; that's how I always felt about that chapel, peacefulness. So when my husband and I decided to marry, we asked Woodlawn if we could get married there, because it is such a wonderful chapel. It was a second marriage -- I was a widow -- and it really meant a lot to me. The only charge was that we had to give them a wedding picture. We had only family and a few close friends, so they were packed in there like sardines, but it was just beautiful.

Michele Sowerby, of the United Kingdom

Benjamin Franklin McCune was my great-great-grandfather. He was a carpenter and helped build many of the older buildings in town, including the old county jail. He was a Civil War veteran who enlisted in Edwardsville in February 1862. His regiment was involved in conflicts in the Missouri 13th Regiment, Cavalry Volunteers. His horse was shot and fell on him, and he never fully recovered from his injuries. He died six years after being mustered out of service. He was originally buried at Lusk Cemetery... Mr. McCune's daughter was told that the city was going to lay a road across his grave, so she had my great-great-grandfather's remains reinterred at her family lot at Woodlawn. There were many prominent people from Edwardsville's past buried at Lusk, people who helped to build Edwardsville and Madison County into what it is today. There is nothing left of their graves as markers to show for their work and effort, and I would hate to see Woodlawn fall to the same fate as Lusk and lose a vital piece of Edwardsville's past ... I was proud to have discovered someone so far back in my family's past who served the country so bravely, and to have found such a strong tie to Edwardsville's past.

Joan Schneider Densmore, of Pocahontas

In high school, a bunch of us girls went out after the basketball game, and they said, "Do you want to see the Ghost Tunnel?" We said, "Yeah, right." It was a tombstone, and they put the name on backwards. It was supposed to be (Ella Tunnell Ghost, wife of A.M. Ghost). But it says Ghost Tunnell. We saw it, but we got stuck at the bottom of the cemetery because of the ice in the road! We were in the cemetery and it was dark! We had to walk out and call a parent to come rescue us.

Barbara Finch, of Grants Pass, Ore.

My grandfather, William Lange, emigrated from pre-World War I Germany with his parents and siblings when he was very young. He grew up in the Edwardsville area and learned the trades of bricklaying and carpentry. During World War I, he served with our armed forces as a motorcycle messenger and was stationed "over there." After the war, he met and married Mabel Drafts of Toledo, Ohio. They were the parents of two sons... (who) are buried with them. Robert Carl served in the military during World War II and was very involved in the community, held his own art show in Edwardsville and taught at the old Edwardsville High School. Harold Wilbur served in the military during the Korean action and worked with Illinois Terminal Railroad and Illinois Power... To me, Woodlawn Cemetery is a place to meditate, reflect on memories and enjoy the tranquility of the pastoral beauty.

Rob Baird, of Edwardsville

Woodlawn means a lot to me because it is where two sets of my family are buried. My three-times great-grandparents Rohrkaste were the first in the States, as were my two-times great-grandparents Henry and Philippina Harmening... Henry died in 1912 in a mining accident on St. Louis Street... I live close by the cemetery and visit it often. Most of my ancestors' headstones are still in really good shape, considering how old they are. It is a cool old cemetery with lots of history, and it is pretty well taken care of.

Michele Todd, of Edwardsville

My aunts and uncles are buried at Woodlawn. When I was a little girl, my dad was the first in his family to graduate from high school. The others didn't have an education, but they were the farmers who worked the land around here. Even though I grew up in Alton, this is where I came for family dinners. My cousins and I would get together, and play in the fields and feed the farm animals. When I left (Alton), there was nowhere else I would move. I love this town, and that's part of why Woodlawn is important to me. It's such a wonderful place to walk through, even more than to drive through. When I've had a hard day, I like to go down to the bottom of the cemetery, sit in my car and watch the wildlife, the deer and the fawns. The sexton back then had birds that would come down from the trees and sit right on her shoulder -- I saw it with my own eyes! It's breathtaking.

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