PASS CHRISTIAN -- Students in Lori Fisher's gifted class at Pass Christian Middle School will be offering a trip back in time at Live Oak Cemetery tonight and Saturday in Pass Christian. For the past five years, Fisher's sixth-grade Journey students have presented "Living History Tours," a historical journey through one of the Coast's oldest cemeteries.
"The tours start at the entrance to the cemetery," Fisher said. "Our goal is to educate people about the history of Pass Christian and to talk about some of the many personalities buried here that were so instrumental in the history of Pass Christian. This is entirely done by sixth-grade students. But some of my students that have moved on come back and volunteer. We have about 80 kids in this year's tour."
Fisher said the project started as a civic mission for her students, but it has since become a staple of fall activities in the Pass.
"We did a lot of research, and we saw a lot of pictures of the cemetery," she said. "We were notified that an old carriage arch at the entrance had been destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. So we started the tours as a way to raise money to buy a new arch. We have made that goal, and we hope to have the arch completed in time for next year's tours. We have gotten such a great response that we keep doing it year after year."
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Rich in history
Live Oak Cemetery was founded in 1851 from some land donated by Sen. John Henderson, for whom Pass Christian's Henderson Point was named.
Today, it is overseen by Trinity Episcopal Church.
"This is a very historical cemetery," Live Oak Cemetery Association director Alice Russell said. "The musician John Handy is buried here. Senator Henderson and his family are buried here, and we also have the great-niece of George Washington."
According to Live Oak historian Becky Orfila, the cemetery also has veterans of the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War and the Civil War.
"People are still being buried here," Orfila said. "We have several large oak trees on the cemetery property but many of them have been damaged by Hurricane Katrina. We have started planting small oak trees around the property so that they will be around 100 years from now. We consider this property as much of a nature preserve as we do a cemetery."
Step back in time
During the tour, Fisher's students act as tour guides, presenting period-piece tableaus of some of the cemetery's more notable residents.
"We have someone portraying Steve Saucier at the gate and then someone does a scene as Aunt Lucy Marshall, Pass Christian's 'wash woman,' who wasn't actually buried here," Fisher said. "Not everyone that is represented in the tour is actually buried here, but since this is a historical tour, we needed to bring these people in, people like President Woodrow Wilson, who actually stayed at the Dixie White House."
According to Fisher, one of the more moving scenes takes place at the gravesite of two Pass Christian veterans who served in the Pacific Theater in World War II.
"A gentleman named Leo Cox is buried here." she said. "He was a Marine stationed in Hawaii during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His buddy, Cecil Ruddock, stayed on the USS Arizona. Cecil tried to get Leo to stay on the ship with him. Leo survived and Cecil went down with the ship. They are both buried here. We recreate their scene. It's very touching."
The cemetery tours start at 5 p.m. and run every 15 minutes. The tours last about an hour and the last one leaves at 7:30 p.m. The tours are free, but donations are accepted.
Refreshments will be available at Trinity Episcopal Church after the tours.