Remember that movie, where the kid said he could see dead people? Well, this Sunday at Forest Home Cemetery, you will not only see “dead” people. You will hear their life stories. Some are inspiring, some will be tragic but all are engrossing, as we learn more about the colorful citizens who are slumbering in our soil. This year, to celebrate the 125th birthday of River Forest, residents of our upscale neighbor to the north will be standing by their gravesites, ready to illuminate and entertain.
But the best part about this year’s “Tale of Tombstones” tour is that you will not have me as a tour guide ” possibly getting your group lost in the wilds of Forest Home. No, I’ll be standing in one spot, portraying entrepreneur William C. Grunow. Grunow, who made two fortunes, the first from manufacturing radios, the second from raising chickens, will show you his magnificent mausoleum on the banks of the Des Plaines.
This will be my second performance as Grunow. Back in September, he helped host a tour of his River Forest mansion at 915 Franklin. This was the house I built with the radio money. It has two bowling lanes, an indoor pool, an English pub, a chapel and a pipe organ that can be heard throughout the house. It’s like the Roaring 20’s mansion in “Sunset Boulevard” on a good day.
Sorry, I got carried away with my character ” So, on Sunday tour groups will be assembling near the Des Plaines gate beginning at 1:00 p.m. The last tour leaves at 2:00. The cost is $15 for non-members of The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest and ten bucks for members. At either price, it’s well worth the two hour traipse that will teach you more about local history and cemetery lore than ” well, a guide like me can remember.
Among the other characters you’ll meet are Adolph Westphal and Felix Griffin ” two River Forest founders who debated whether the town should sell alcohol. I am not going to give away the outcome of that argument. Architect William Drummond, the “Frank Lloyd Wright of River Forest” will be there with his lovely wife Clara. The married couple that portrays them ” I don’t know what their real marriage is like ” but they sure know how to bicker in a lively fashion. Another architect, Charles White, will show you the lovely chapel he designed, just a few steps from the Haymarket Martyr’s Monument.
Forest Park is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having way more dead people than live ones. But how many of us know the pioneers, soldiers, tycoons, writers and other permanent residents of our nationally known cemeteries?
One more thing: if it’s pouring rain, you won’t find William C. Grunow getting soaked in his wool suit. Our rain date is October 23rd. For tickets call (708) 848-6755, or just show up. In case you need more motivation, Halloween is right around the corner ” that was the day the ancient Druids thought they were seeing dead people.