Greenhill Cemetery walking tour

Greenhill Cemetery, Laramie. In the background is the 1888 GAR monument and podium. Grave in the foreground is that of the photographer’s mother, Teddy Bailey Varineau, who became a widow shortly after her 1943 marriage to Army Lt. Russell Bailey of Cheyenne, and who later married veteran and University of Wyoming professor Verne Varineau.

There are over 16,000 persons buried at Greenhill Cemetery in Laramie. Each one has a story.

Tombstones and markers give the bare outlines of a life — there is much more documented about most of them. A few of their stories will be shared during a free Cemetery Tour starting at 5 p.m. on Friday.

One stop will not be a grave, but a monument to those who served in the military during the American Civil War. It was erected by Custer Post No. 1 of the Grand Army of the Republic “in memory of our dead comrades,” in 1888, just 16 years after the first burial at Greenhill. The tall pedestal, topped by a sculpted soldier, faces a podium used every Memorial Day in Laramie as military and first responders are honored and remembered.

Access to Greenhill Cemetery this year is unique since both main entrances from 15th Street are blocked. Instead, entrance is through the service gate from Willett Drive. It can be approached from 22nd Street, turning west at Willett and passing the “no through traffic sign.” It is the first right turn after that sign.

Cemetery staff advises parking can be at the edge of any gravel road, no need to drive onto the grass since there will be no other traffic at the cemetery at that time.

In recent years, cemetery tours featured costumed interpreters. Members of the Unexpected Company senior theatrical troop and other volunteers have told brief stories acting as the living character buried there. Most gravesites were of Laramie pioneers.

This year, however, speakers at each of the dozen graves to be visited will include a great-granddaughter, a neighbor, a widow and others who knew the deceased or have researched the lives of those featured. Those highlighted will be individuals who devoted their lives to military or government service. Some died during their service.

The tour will start at the south end of Row L, which will be marked with a large American flag. That will be the burial site of George Hanson of Laramie, one of the nearly 2,500 military personnel who died when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941. Nearly 70 years later, his remains were identified and returned with great military honors to Greenhill Cemetery where he was buried with his mother and stepfather in the Strouts family plot.

Graves to be visited this year also include those of Jackson Brown, Thomas Harding, Lee Durkee, John Mullison, Ward Husted, Simon Durlacher and his son-in-law H. Neale Roach, Francois and Margaret Dickman, Eric Stanley Trueblood, Dale St. John and Agnes Wright Spring. Speakers will be Cal Van Zee, Lee Killian, Karen Bard, Rex Rees, Katie Morgan, Jane Varineau Nelson, Germaine St. John, Al Tremblay, Cindy Elrod and Judy Knight.

After walking to the GAR monument and the north edge of the cemetery, the tour will return to the last of 12 stops at the south edge of Row R. The walking distance is about half mile.

Sponsors of the tour this year are the Laramie Plains Museum, Albany County Historical Society, Albany County Historic Preservation Board, Daughters of the American Revolution, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. No reservations are needed, but carpooling is recommended. If it rains, wait in cars for the rain to stop. Then the tour, which will take about 1½ hours, will begin. Reservations are not required.

Preceding the cemetery tour, and following the tour, the American Legion invites participants and the public to a reception at its headquarters, located at 417 E. Ivinson Ave. Special guest will be Curt Fields of Arizona, who impersonates General Ulysses S. Grant. Field’s first talk will be at 1 p.m.

Fields will later be recording a podcast at the Legion Hall at the same time the cemetery tour starts, 5 p.m., which is also open to the public and free. Following that, there will be a $5 per plate meal served for anyone comes to meet Curt Fields aka General and President U.S. Grant.

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