Living History Cemetery Tour

Friday and Saturday, July 20 and 21, there will be living history cemetery tours at the Tacoma Cemetery located at 4801 South Tacoma Way 98409. There will be eight different people from Tacoma’s past that will be re-enacted by actors standing at their grave site as attendees walk through and Melissa McGinnis, historian with Metro Parks Tacoma, will start the tour with an introduction of what’s happened in Tacoma, who they will meet, and what’s happening in Tacoma now. The eight people from Tacoma’s past will be: H.F. Alexander re-enacted by Walter Neary, Ruth Alexander re-enacted by Jill Weatherford, Asahel Denman re-enacted by Patrick Haas, Elizabeth Drake re-enacted by Karen Haas, Henry Hewitt, Jr. re-enacted by Mike Preston, George Kandle re-enacted by Joseph Govednik, John Sprague re-enacted by Ken Morgan, and Mildred Wallace re-enacted by Doreen Beard Simpkins. The tour lasts approximately an hour and there are tours that begin every 20 minutes between 6 pm to 7:40 pm on Friday and 5:40 pm and 7:40 pm on Saturday. Tickets are $8 a person and advance ticket purchase is required. Those that are interested can pay for their tickets in advance with cash or check at the Tacoma Cemetery or call: 253 472-3369 and pay with a credit card or reserve their tickets for will call.

Karen Haas, coordinator and re-enactor for the 4th annual living history cemetery tour at Tacoma Cemetery, provided snapshots of each of the eight people that will be re-enacted:

  1. H.F. Alexander started off as poor, helping support his mother by working on the docks. His first job working on the docks paid him 40 cents an hour. H.F. Alexander became a millionaire with building ships and founded a shipping line. His ship transported cruise ships and his company employed 12,000 people owned by 90 percent of the luxury market. H.F. Alexander owned a commercial dock company in Tacoma at the age of 20.
  2. Ruth Alexander was the wife of H.F. Alexander. H.F. Alexander inherited property from his mother and she and H.F. Alexander bought 5 acres. Ruth was a gardener and had a rose named after her. Their estate is called Lake Wold Gardens in Lakewood which is now a historic garden estate.
  3. Asahel Denman was a lawyer and outdoorsman. He did a lot of hiking along Mt. Rainier and was an early member of the Tacoma Mountaineer Club.
  4. Elizabeth Drake was a medical doctor at a time when women doctors were rare. She was also an interested in horses and yachts, and a member of the Tacoma Yacht Club before women were allowed to.
  5. Henry Hewitt was the founder of the City of Everett and involved with railroads and lumbering in early Tacoma.
  6. George Kandle travelled to the Oregon Trail when he was an infant and later became a politician. Kandle Park is now a new wave pool through Metro Parks Tacoma.
  7. John Sprague was the first mayor of Tacoma and came to the Tacoma area with the early railroad in Tacoma. Sprague Avenue in Tacoma is named after him.
  8. Mildred Wallace was the daughter of Nelville Fuller, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and married to Hugh Wallace. Hugh Wallace was involved in steam ships that ran between Tacoma and Alaska during the Gold Rush. He was also an ambassador to France. Mildred also had three kids.
Reenactors Bryce and Lissa Wilson portray Nelson and Lottie Bennett at the 2011 Living History Cemetery Tour. Photo illustration by Dan McCormack

When asked how this tour was different compared to others, Karen replied, “How often do you get to hear their life story while standing at their grave site? It’s one of Tacoma’s oldest cemeteries and I think one of the most beautiful cemeteries. It’s a bit of history that you don’t get from others. The Tacoma Cemetery was founded in 1874; which a lot of people do not know. The cemetery is right in Tacoma and not in the outskirts.”

Karen recommends anyone who has an interest in history or anyone who may think they are not interested in history, attend the tour. The event is recommended for those aged 12 and up however, it is not inappropriate for kids that are younger. She does recommend attendees wear comfortable walking shoes as the ground is uneven.

For more information please email: “It’s a challenge for us to keep the memories of the past alive,” Karen concluded.

By: Carly Calabrese, staff for

Photo illustration by Dan McCormack of


9 thoughts on “Living History Cemetery Tour”

  1. I’m always intrigued with the history of this area that’s why I enjoy visiting Ft. Nisqually, I always learn something as do my children.

  2. Carly once again you have pointed out another great event to attend. History be it natioanl or local is important to us all. Thank you for all you do.

    1. You have always liked history Bob. I remember you were interested in the Civil War event, remember?

  3. What a neat concept!!! I’ve always wondered how the people lived and now with
    research and the dedication of reenactors,we can ‘peer’ into the past. Thanks for
    the nice artcle.

  4. I went to this event and met a gal about my age there. The event was very interesting, I learned a lot, and the re-enactors at each grave site did a great job of dressing the part. Apparently, they do this event every year, with a different theme. This year’s theme was “rails, trails, and sails” the people that were highlighted from Tacoma in the past were ones that worked with transportation that dealt with being on: rails, trails, and sails. : )

    1. Sorry I missed it. Sounds like it was a lot of fun. Well there’s always next year. Can’t wait to see what other interesting and exciting things you’ll be coming up with for the rest of this year Carly. I know your always on the go. : )

    2. Glad you liked it, Carly. Thanks again for posting about the Tour. We’re already looking forward to next year’s!

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