click to enlarge Fall events at Oak Ridge Cemetery
Photo by Guy Sternberg
Bitternut hickory, one of 34 trees on the Oct. 14 tree tour at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Oak Ridge Cemetery tree tour
Saturday, Oct. 14

This is the ninth year for this free, family-friendly event, which will showcase a wide variety of unique trees, along with offering a kids' table and educational activities for children, cookies and lemonade. Volunteer guides will interpret the 34 trees on the tour. All are on level ground within easy walking distance of each other. The tour is an opportunity to enjoy fall color and collect some seeds while learning what makes each of these trees unique. The event will take place rain or shine from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.

There are thousands of trees at Oak Ridge Cemetery, which has been designated a National Living Landmark. Some of the trees are from Abraham Lincoln's time and before. Hundreds of others have been propagated from historic and rare trees from around the temperate world. Each year the tour features a different area of the cemetery. This year's tour will focus on the historic tree nursery area located east of the war memorials.

Guy Sternberg, owner of Starhill Forest Arboretum in Petersburg, has been studying and promoting the trees at Oak Ridge Cemetery for more than 50 years. He helped design and start the nursery in 1992, donating 700 trees. When the trees grew big enough, many were transplanted to other places in the cemetery. The entire nursery area will be interpreted on this year's tour. Most of the trees on the tour were planted as part of the original nursery and never transplanted. Some were there when the nursery was established. Sternberg says visitors will see types of trees they likely have never seen before.

It takes many volunteers to provide this opportunity for the public. "Some are plant people, professionals and hobbyists, but many are just individuals who like learning something about trees and enjoy being outdoors," said volunteer Sue Massie. "That profile is similar for the visitors that come for the tour itself."

Massie says the tree tour is an opportunity for both visitors and volunteers to enjoy the beautiful cemetery environment at a joyous time, different than a typical visit relating to a death.

"I like to volunteer for the annual Oak Ridge Cemetery Tree Walk because it fits my retirement mission to have fun and make sure those around me have fun as well," said volunteer Diana Hetherington.  "The tree walk is a good opportunity to learn about trees while helping educate others in our community."

For more information about the Oak Ridge Cemetery Foundation tree program, including how to adopt a tree, go to

Echoes of Yesteryear: A walk through Oak Ridge Cemetery
Sunday, Oct. 1

The popular Sangamon County Historical Society's cemetery walk at Oak Ridge Cemetery will take place Sunday, Oct. 1, from 12-4 p.m. Actors dressed in period costumes will portray seven individuals who made significant contributions to the Springfield community. All of the stories have been researched thoroughly.

Oak Ridge Cemetery, founded in 1856, is now the largest municipal cemetery in Illinois and well-known for its history and beauty. Over 75,000 individuals are buried at the cemetery, including many of Springfield's most influential citizens. Some are well-known while others are not.

The Sangamon County Historical Society is dedicated to raising public awareness of the people who have contributed to Springfield's rich history. The annual cemetery walk is one way the organization does this. The popular cemetery walk was held annually from 1996 -2008 and resumed eight years ago due to popular demand. 

This year's tour will bring to life the following individuals:

• Edgar Shanklin who co-founded a company that produced lamps for coal miners.

• Erma Garrison Templeman, the first woman to practice law in Sangamon County, passing the bar exam at the same time as her husband.

• Edna Dye Weaver, the first woman to own an auto dealership in Springfield.

• Thorne Deuel, director of the Illinois State Museum from 1938-1963, from the perspective of his wife, Nora.

• Herbert Georg, a prominent photographer in Springfield for over 50 years.

• Vera Shoultz, who along with her husband, Rev. Rudolph Shoultz, longtime pastor of Union Baptist Church, were leaders in the African American community.

• Dr. Don Deal, a physician who performed the first blood transfusion in Sangamon County in the 1920s.

Enter the cemetery from Monument Drive and follow the signs to park near the Lincoln tomb. Visitors will take a bus to the first location, walk to the other stops on the tour (approximately half-a-mile) and ride a bus back to the parking lot. The last tour begins at 3:15 p.m.

The event is free. Donations are encouraged. Water and snacks will be available to purchase. For information about the Sangamon County Historical Society and any cancellation due to inclement weather, go to or call 217-525-1961.

Karen Ackerman Witter

Karen Ackerman Witter started freelance writing after a 35-year career in state government holding various senior leadership positions. Prior to retiring she was associate director of the Illinois State Museum for 14 years. She is the past president of the Kidzeum Board of Directors and is an active volunteer...

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