The gift of history – Historical Society to host cemetery walk Saturday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 23, 2021

For more than two decades, the Lawrence County Historical Society has been organizing its historic cemetery walk at Woodland Cemetery and, on Saturday, the popular event will return after a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at the cemetery from 5-7 p.m., Kay Radar, a trustee with the society said.

Drawing hundreds to Woodland each year, the walk features several people from the community, dressed as the notable figures buried there, who tell of their life stories.

Radar is among them, portraying Nannie Kelly Wright, the nation’s only female ironmaster, something she has done for 16 years.

“She was a strong woman,” Radar said of her choice, who was believed to be the second wealthiest woman in the world after Queen Victoria. “She had a very interesting life.”

Radar said the first walk took place in the 1990s and was just for members of the society. They were led through the cemetery by Naomi Deer, who used a bullhorn and talked about the figures.

“We enjoyed it so much, we decided to get together and plan something for the community,” Radar said.

In 1999, and organized by Deer, Dottie Rogers, Virginia Bryant and Luann Blagg, the public walks began.

“We selected the characters and wrote scripts,” she said of the portrayals, which include people such as Wright, World War I flying ace Col. William Lambert, Waterloo Wonders coach Magellan Hairston, poet Mary White Slater and Antoinette Sherpetoska Peters, a dancer with the Imperial Russian Ballet.

Peters, who was born in Lithuania, is portrayed by local dance teacher Yvonne Sinnott. She will return this year and, there will be one change — over the past year, two missing portraits from Peters’ mausoleum were replaced by an anonymous benefactor and can be seen on the walk.

Radar said there will be two new additions this year — Ducky Corn, who she describes as “a local bad guy” and Dean Gilfillen, another decorated World War I hero, who served as a tank commander.

Radar invited the public to come out to the “beautiful cemetery” and take part in the event.
It’s the Historical Society’s gift to Ironton and it helps us to remember our past,” she said.

— For more on Rader, see the feature in this weekend’s Generations section.