Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Sept. 11, 2000

HL Historical Society cemetery tour Sept. 14

"One of the best resources a town can have is a good cemetery," said author Kirk Besse, host of Howard Lake Historical Society's "Howard Lake Cemetery Tour."

The cemetery tour will be Thursday, Sept. 14 starting at the Howard Lake Community Center at 6 p.m., and progressing to the cemetery from there. The event will benefit the Howard Lake Historical Society with a suggested donation of $5. However, no one will be turned away.

A cemetery is at once a museum, an archive and a healing ground all rolled into one. Memorials, or tombstones as they are more commonly known, are the highlights of any cemetery.

Memorials are a reflection of their age. Early New England tombstones often featured a grim skull and cross bones design, while the Victorian age centered on lambs and angels. Whatever the age, these memorials create a sculpture garden, or an outdoor museum that helps us understand a snapshot in time.

And as any genealogist knows, cemeteries are great places to do research. While the memorials preserve names and dates, even the location of the graves can play an important role in discovering family relationships, and their status in the community.

Finally, of course, a cemetery is a place to heal. The loss of a loved one or a great friend is always difficult. The cemetery is a place for reflection that helps heal those most personal of wounds.

But why a cemetery tour? Well, actually, people do it all the time. They tour Arlington National Cemetery, Westminster Abby's crypt and numerous Hollywood cemeteries, always searching for the graves of famous or infamous.

While you won't find any movie stars, presidents or kings resting in Howard Lake Cemetery, you will find a lot of colorful individuals, moving memorials and even a mystery or two.

But maybe the simplest answer to "why a cemetery tour?" is to understand the history of the community a little better. That seems to be reason enough.

Like a lot of people with ancestral roots in Howard Lake, Besse has more than a few relatives buried in the Howard Lake Cemetery.

"I've one set of great-great grandparents buried there, another set of great-grandparents, my maternal grandparents, and my own parents. And, there's even room for me, though I don't plan on moving in anytime soon," Besse said.

"My first experience with Howard Lake Cemetery was decorating the graves with my grandfather, Willie John Gilmer. I learned a lot of family history that way," said Besse.

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