By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – The Historical Society’s annual Cemetery Walk was once again a sold out success, with people dying to take part, followed by a Victorian-era funeral display at the Ford-MacNichol House.
The event, held Oct. 12 and 13, began at the museum and this year took attendees to the Mt. Carmel Cemetery by bus, where volunteer actors told their rapt audience how they ended up 6 feet under.
A highlight of the tour was the ghostly specter of the Rev. Leo Jarecki of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Church, played by the Rev. Mark Borkowski, the current priest at the church, now known as Our Lady of the Scapular.
Jarecki, who was born in Poland in 1876, became pastor at Mt. Carmel in 1920, and served until he was killed at the door of the rectory on April 1, 1921, by an unknown assailant.
The parish is currently making plans to provide a grave markerfor Jarecki’s unmarked grave.
Despite cold temperatures and a fine drizzle, the actors portraying the cemetery’s residents garnered the rapt interest of the guests, telling their life stories, often leading to the tale of how they ended up in their final resting place.
Volunteers research and select the real people they hope to portray, from which the museum chooses its roster of spirited speakers.
The nine-acre Mt. Carmel Cemetery was established in 1865, and is the final resting place of more than 2,000 people.
Volunteer Joel Adkins portrayed Gerald Roberts, born in 1928 and a father of seven, who was in a horrific accident while a delivery driver for Hudson’s, an injury from which he never fully recovered, and which led to his premature death seven years later.
Actor Ashley Kaufman offered a glimpse into the life of Katherine Drennan, the last resident of the Ford-MacNichol home, who lived there until her death in 1963. She was a teacher, then a principal of both McKinley and Garfield elementary schools in Wyandotte.
Volunteer Stefani Lawrence portrayed Mary McKee, a woman of two worlds – her mother was the daughter of Chief Quoqua of the Wyandotte Nation, and her father was Irish. She died and was buried in Wyandotte, Okla.
A spinster down on her luck, Amelia Buck, portrayed by actor Colleen Bowdler, tried to care for her mentally unstable younger sister and her deaf and developmentally delayed brother, both of whom failed to report her death, and let her body decay while the unstable sister tried to use witchcraft to revive her.
One of the saddest stories was that of Mary Jakubiec, as played by Elaine Roman. Her husband was killed by a train when he was leaving work to come home to her 37th birthday party. While the woman was overcome with grief, her two-year-daughter wandered off and was struck by a train.
Following the cemetery tour, Downriver Paranormal Investigators provided a 10-minute presentation at the historical Marx House about the spooks, spirits and strange creatures rumored to haunt the dark corners of the world.
Two doors down, the Ford-MacNichol House held an open house from 5 to 8 p.m., highlighting the mourning customs of the Victorian-era.
Tickets for the annual cemetery walk, which changes each year, sell out. The 2019 tickets go on sale Sept. 3.
For more information about the museum and its programs, call 734-324-7284 or go to wyandottemuseums.org.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)