Dressed in period costumes,                                                                          veteran actors provided a dramatic flair as they recounted                                                                    stories from the viewpoint of local citizens buried at Forest                                                                    Home Cemetery. Carolyn Dombroske portrayed the                                                                              inimitable Miss Mary Fish, an accomplished teacher at                                                                            Greenville High School, patron of the arts, and well-                                                                           known orator. Miss Fish shared a letter that she had                                                                             received from one of her former students, Oscar Fowler                                                                       (portrayed by Cory Smith) who had fought in the Meuse-                                                                       Argonne offensive at the end of the war. “Miss Fish” also                                                                    gave a dramatic reading of Dulce et Decorum Est, a poem                                                                        that was written by a British poet and soldier in 1917, which describes the ravages of war and concludes with the sarcastic line: “It is just and proper to die for one’s country.” The poem’s author was killed during the war.

Another vignette featured the colorful story of Mrs. Bessie Bierman, as told by her mother, Alice Wilson (portrayed by Briana Herzog). Bessie grew up in Greenville, then later moved to Chicago to start her own detective agency, after being abandoned by her husband and left with a 3-year-old son to raise. “Mrs. B” as she was referred to, became the only female member of the American Protective League, which was tasked with rooting out spies and German sympathizers. At its peak, the American Protective League had 250,000 volunteer members nationwide. Bessie Bierman died at the young age of 46, having led a very eventful life.

But perhaps one of the most memorable stories was told by Smith Booth
 (portrayed by Spence Tower), the father of Ray I. Booth, who was killed
 during the war and in whose memory the local American Legion Post
 is named. “Smith Booth” shared a letter that he had received from one
 of Ray’s comrades, Fred Petchell, who fought alongside Ray during the
 last days of the war. Relying on uncensored diary entries made during
 the war, Fred related details of Ray’s 2 months of fighting in France
 before being killed in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. The letter included
 a touching story of a “shared watch” (Fred’s watch straps on Ray’s
 watch face), which Fred sent to Smith Booth after the war.

Other stories included Teresa Ranney (as told by her son, George
 Ranney, portrayed by Mike Walsh), who was a feminist icon back
 in the day, empowering women to support the Liberty Loan drives
 and fighting for women’s equal right to vote; and Emily Fuller 
(portrayed by Deb Dieckman) whose family moved to Greenville
 after the great Chicago fire, and who wrote an article in the
 October 30, 1918 issue of the Greenville Independent concerning the women’s registration drive during the war. 

The program was well-received by those who attended. “A wonderful program and fantastic performances – so glad we went!” said Toy Hogan. “I really enjoyed the program as well,” added Shelley Ramirez. “I love how they brought the stories and history to life, and I appreciate all the research that Kathleen and Paula continue to do.”

“We’re happy to continue providing entertaining and educational events at the cemetery,” said Friends president, Paula Christiansen. “The funds raised by these events allow Friends to continue restoring and preserving the headstones and history of the cemetery. And we’re donating one-half of the net proceeds from this particular program to our Veterans Flag Holder Project, in the hope that by next year, every veteran’s grave will have a flag holder and U.S. flag.”

“The WWI Centennial Jubilee was also made possible through generous in-kind donations from Big L Lumber, Fighting Falcon Military Museum, Flat River Community Players, Merritt Auction & Tent Rental, Nelsons Speed Shop, Pinups for Patriots, SureShot Pest Control, and VFW Post 3794,” said Christiansen. “We’re very grateful for the continued support of our community, and hope to expand our program offerings in the future.”

highlighting how the war affected local citizens.

“Each of the roles was thoroughly researched,” said Kathleen Dunne, vice president of Friends of Forest Home Cemetery and program planner. “Thanks to the archived issues of The Daily News (then the Greenville Independent) and other online sources, we were able to identify many of the actual facts and circumstances surrounding life in Greenville during the Great War,” she said.

“Many local musicians and actors donated their talents to make this program a success,” said Dunne. “But I couldn’t have done it without Valerie VanderMark, who managed and directed the musical portion of the program.”

"I loved the creativity in the program that allowed
 local people to share their talents with the com-
munity, while bringing local history alive,” said
 VanderMark, who recently retired as Performing
 Arts Coordinator for Montcalm Community
 College. “Friends of Forest Home Cemetery is
 doing a wonderful service – both in keeping the
 cemetery in great shape and preserving the
 history of our community – and this program
 was a great way to raise money and aware-
ness,” she said. VanderMark added her voice 
to the group of veteran singers including Deb Dieckman, Mark Dombroske, Kathleen Dunne, Ryan Garlick, Charlotte Lothian, Larry Moss, and Greg VanderMark. Accompanying the singers were Andrew Smith on drums, Cory Smith on trumpet, Kevin Cook on Baritone Horn, and Jean Hudson on piccolo. Charlotte Lothian also provided a cello accompaniment to “In Flanders Fields,” sung by Larry Moss, Deb Dieckman, and Kathleen Dunne.

                                                    Friends of Forest Home Cemetery, Inc.
WWI Centennial Jubilee Provides Entertaining Look at Local History
As the haunting notes of Taps echoed through the hills of Forest Home Cemetery on a recent Sunday afternoon, the WWI Centennial Jubilee came to a somber conclusion with the roll call of WWI veterans buried at Forest Home Cemetery. The program, commemorating the 100-year anniversary of America’s entry into WWI, was created and hosted by Friends of Forest Home Cemetery, and featured popular WWI-era songs such as “Over There” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” intermingled with skits