Over 150 guests arrived at the gates of the historic Pioneer and Military Memorial Park Cemetery on Saturday, October 12, 2013. They discovered a beautiful Victorian setting in the gazebo garden patio at the second annual Dining Among the Dead fundraiser event. Included at this venue was the tenth Historic Walk in Phoenix’s Early Cemeteries.
The guests were taken back to another era when Phoenix was an up and coming city and Arizona was still a Territorial State. The lavish Victorian table settings were a colorful green and black lace over white tablecloths with accents of purple. The chairs were covered in white with black ties and green puffs. White lampposts lit the garden with an accent of twinkle lights. The centerpieces were glittered black tree branches with green and purple spider accents. A corked candy pill bottle served as the party favor.
Many of the guests dressed in late 1800’s—early 1900’s attire which added an additional ambiance to the special occasion. Several members of the Arizona Steampunk Society attended this event along with groups from various historic organizations from around the Valley.
A one-man, one- act play was presented by Wyatt Earp titled “Wyatt Earp: A Life on the Frontier.” The grandnephew of the legendary Wyatt Earp portrayed the western icon in his later years as if being interviewed by a newspaper reporter. During the dinner meal, over sixty fabulous prizes were raffled. The prizes were donated by several Arizona businesses, craft workers, Arizona sports teams, hotels and restaurants and were awarded to lucky ticket holders.
As darkness fell over the diners, the twinkling lights and lamp posts lit up the patio, and glowing luminaries guided the pathways for the Historic Cemetery Walk. The theme of the October 2013 walk was Phoenix Pioneer Townsfolk. Some of the dearly departed were Frank W Smith, William (Coyote Bill) Drum, Minnie (Cowboy Frankie) Drum, Marie A Pierson, Fred Anderson, S O Payne, Anne Perley, and MaryAnn Tovrea Clay.
Seven cemeteries make up the eleven acre complex that contain the burial sites of many early Phoenix pioneers who helped shape the way of life in the state of Arizona. The site was used until 1914 and many old tombstones still dot the aged graveyard—some of them are in need of repair or restoration.
“We wanted to do something that would begin accumulating funds to get a crew into the historic cemetery to begin making some of the needed repairs,” Cindy Lee and Debe Branning (co-chairs of the event) stated. “We are trying to preserve Phoenix’s history and keep the names of these first pioneers alive. We are fortunate that many of the people of Phoenix see this same need and respond so generously.”
The Historic Cemetery Walk tours are sponsored by the Pioneers’ Cemetery Association. Board member, Debe Branning, organizes and heads up the historic walking tour program. Eight different dearly departed grave sites are selected, researched, and showcased on each historic tour. Volunteer reenactment players receive a researched, scripted biography of one of the pioneers buried in the cemetery. They add their own research, props and personality to the character. The Historic Cemetery Walk is an event the entire family can enjoy. Each bi-yearly tour offers a new set of tales of dearly departed Phoenix residents. Guests have an opportunity to learn about the lives of these unique pioneers—where they came from, why they settle in Arizona, and how they lived and died. No tour is ever the same!
“We personally would like to thank everyone who came out and help with this fabulous event. Without all of you it could not happen!” Debe Branning and Cindy Lee are always looking for fresh and new ideas for next year's dinner party. And remember, “you never want to be late for dinner when you are dining among the dead.”
The next scheduled “Historic Walk in Phoenix’s Early Cemeteries will be held in March 2014. Watch for the date!
Pioneers' Cemetery Association
Pioneer & Military Memorial Park (cemetery)
14th Avenue and Jefferson Streets
Arizona Haunted Sites Examiner: Debe Branning email@example.com