Cemetery walk includes the famous and the lesser-known

The Elmwood Cemetery Mausoleum is a new addition to the Sycamore History Museum's Cemetery Walk this year.
The Elmwood Cemetery Mausoleum is a new addition to the Sycamore History Museum's Cemetery Walk this year.

SYCAMORE – Ordinary and extraordinary people.

According to Michelle Donahoe, both will be portrayed in the annual Elmwood Heritage Cemetery Walk, which will be held at Elmwood Cemetery in Sycamore on Oct. 7.

“We pick famous people, and then other people that may not be so prominent,” said Donahoe, executive director of the Sycamore History Museum.

“Sometimes somebody will suggest someone and I will pick someone around them,” museum archives chairman Ann Rosenfeld said.

The cemetery, which dates to March of 1865, is one of the best-kept cemeteries in the county, Rosenfeld said. It is also the county’s third largest. To prevent groups from having to walk too far, Donahoe said the people to be featured are usually selected based on location.

This year’s walk, Rosenfeld said, will start at the new mausoleum on the south side of the cemetery.

“We used to meet at the rotunda,” she said. “But this year we decided to do something different.”

After a brief talk about how the mausoleum got its name, the group will visit the grave sites of the Peter Bier family, who spent time in a Russian prison before emigrating to the United States; Dr. John Frederick Eggers, a physician who also served in the Korean conflict; and Kenneth Raymond, a longtime local policeman.

The group will then take a short walk to the Garden of the Good Shepherd and Open Face Bible to learn how it started in 1965. From there, the group will visit the final resting places of Sadie Swanbum, a former county treasurer who was active in community affairs; Robert Chandler, a veteran who also was active in the community; Glenn “Fizz” Ehrler of Sycamore car show fame; and Bertha and Ralph Joiner, who saved so many old county records the Joiner History Room was named for them.

After the walk, participants can see other parts of the cemetery.

The talks will be presented by junior docents, as well as members of the museum and the community, all of whom volunteer their services.

“We have some talented volunteers,” Donahoe said. “I think it’s a great program. We’ve been doing it for so many years. It’s one of our most popular events.”

Rosenfeld said the cemetery walk was started in 1994 by a different group. The Sycamore History Museum took it over in 2000.

“We used to do it in September, but it competed with the Sandwich Fair,” she said.
“It’s always held on the first Sunday in October. The most beautiful time is in October.”

Rosenfeld said it can sometimes be a challenge gathering information about the people featured in the walk, especially if it is someone not very well known.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find something and other times, it’s a whole can of worms,’” she said. “We do all our research in (the history museum). I have gone to the Joiner Room at the library sometimes.”

With so many records online these days, she said there are a lot of places she and her staff can go. Normally, it takes about six months to gather enough information for the walk. Rosenfeld said she already has one candidate for next year.

The one thing Rosenfeld doesn’t have to do is contact families for permission to include someone in the walk.

“It’s an honor, I think,” she said.

Elmwood Heritage Cemetery Walk

1 – 3 p.m. Oct. 7
Elmwood Cemetery, Sycamore
815-895-5762 or

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