Drive-Through Dunmore Cemetery Tour Set for Next Month

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Karl Barbee and Julie Esty of the Dearly Departed Players are getting ready for the 2020 Dunmore Cemetery Tour. Attendees are asked to bring a donation for the Feed-a-Friend collection, which is especially vital during this pandemic.

Despite many obstacles, and due to the determination of Julie Esty and her cast of Dearly Departed Players, the Dunmore Cemetery Tour 2020 will take place this year on Oct. 4.

Due to Covid-19 and social distancing, the tour this year will be in drive-through format with tour attendees remaining in their vehicles. As of now, the tour is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m., beginning on the Dunmore High School side of the cemetery on Warren Street.

“Doing the tour in this format and adapting for distancing has been a challenge,” Ms. Esty concedes. “Our initial inclination was to cancel, but we know there are people  who are going to need the Feed-a-Friend donations that we collect at the cemetery gate. Also,The Players would really miss seeing everyone. So, we adapted as best we could. It is our sincere hope that our audience will adapt with us this year.”

The logistics are unusual. “The Dunmore Police Department and the Dunmore Mayor’s Office assured us we would have the cooperation and help we need to make this event happen and we are so grateful,” Julie says. “Tour attendees are advised to check the Dunmore Cemetery Tour page on Facebook for any updates to the current information.”

Attendees will be given a program/tour route/map and “Fast Facts” on some notable cemetery residents. The Dearly Departed Players will help attendees along the way. In essence – it will be one long procession through the cemetery. When the drive-through tour is finished – audience members will be able to come back at any time and do the tour at their leisure by either walking or driving.

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Due to Covid-19 and social distancing, this year’s tour will be in drive-through format with attendees remaining in their vehicles.

Some local businesses and organizations have volunteered to make the cemetery look a bit festive with fall decorations of wreaths and pumpkins. They include Space Time Mead and Cider Works, Carlucci Golden and Desantis, Lackawanna Historical Society, Miller Bean Funeral Home, and Steven’s Wreaths Galore and Much More helping us in the endeavor.

PS Advertising Specialty Company is also working on what attendees are going to need to get them through this tour. 

“As always, a huge thank you goes out to the staff and Board of the Dunmore Cemetery,” Ms. Esty notes.

The Feed–a-Friend donation barrels will be set up at the tour entrance on tour day.  Audience members will be able to drop their donations in before they start on their ride through the cemetery.  

“The Players sincerely cannot wait to see everyone. If we make it  — we will be one of the few events that did make it in this very difficult year.  Wish us luck!” Julie says.

If any other local businesses would like to help dress the cemetery up with pumpkins, wreaths  or mums, or if you need more information, please contact Julie at 570-344-3819.  

No reservations are necessary for the tour.

THIS MONTH: Dunmore Cemetery Tour

Dearly Departed

The Dearly Departed Players will present an all-new tour at the Dunmore Cemetery on Sundays, Oct. 6 and 13, at 2 p.m.

Visitors should arrive early to see exhibits, including VNA Hospice and Home Health of Lackawanna County; Albright Memorial Library, and Scranton Reads. VNA Hospice is exhibiting because their founder, Mrs. Henry Martyn Boies, is buried in the cemetery.

Once again the Dearly Departed Players are partnering with United Neighborhood Centers and  Feed-a-Friend. Admission to the tour is free but the group does ask for a non-perishable donation for that organization.

The tour will take about 2-½ hours.  Comfortable walking shoes are suggested. No reservations are required. 

The tour is researched, written, costumed and directed by Julie Esty — now in her 22nd year of doing tours in the cemetery in one form or another. 

Many of the Dearly Departed Players are now in their 17th year of tours, plus there are some wonderful new cast members this year. The Players are the recipients of a Lackawanna County Arts and Culture Grant.

For more information please call 570-344-3819.

Dearly Departed Players Work To Recognize Merrill’s Marauders

Dearly Departed

Among other current and former Dunmoreans assisting Mrs. Julie Esty, right, and the Dearly Departed Players with their campaign to get Congress to recognize the bravery of Merrill’s Marauders is Retired Colonel James W. Patterson. One of the Marauders, Robert Nicholson, is buried in Dunmore Cemetery.

The Dearly Departed Players, known for their annual tour at Dunmore Cemetery, are busy with a different project, one with a national profile.

According to Julie Esty, the members are campaigning across Lackawanna County to gather signatures on a petition asking the U.S. Congress to pass a Congressional Gold Medal Act for Merrill’s Marauders. The bill was introduced in the House in January, 2019.

One of the Marauders, Robert Nicholson, a native of West Scranton, has significant ties to Dunmore — he and his wife, a native Dunmorean, lived here, and Robert is buried in Dunmore Cemetery.

Assisting Mrs. Esty on the road with the campaign is Retired Colonel James W. Patterson, also a former Dunmorean. Another Dunmorean, James Mack, a Korean War veteran, helped out by printing 3,000 letters and postcards for the Dearly Departed Players to use during their project. Carlucci Golden DeSantis Funeral Home joined the effort by providing the pens used to sign the petitions.

They explain that President Franklin Roosevelt issued a nationwide call in 1943 for volunteers for an extremely dangerous mission in Burma, then occupied by the Japanese. Nearly 3,000 soldiers answered that call for help, and after cutting off Japanese communication and supply lines, they captured the city of Myitkyina. Just over 100 soldiers survived the mission.

“Sometimes these soldiers went days without food or supplies,” Julie explains. “They had to transport their wounded and they lost a lot of men to disease. We want Congress to recognize their extraordinary bravery and service.”

Dearly Departed merrill's maraudersThe Dearly Departed Players first stop on their quest for signatures was at St. Stanislaus Polish National Catholic Church, Scranton, home parish of Michael Sevensky, a member of the Merrill’s Marauders who is buried at St. Stanislaus Cemetery.

The first signature on the petition was that of Prime Bishop Anthony Kikovsky of St. Stanislaus Parish.

He was quoted by WNEP-TV saying, “Even giving of their lives, even those who weren’t killed in wartime, offered that up as a possibility. They went and served, regardless of the danger, regardless of the sacrifice.”

The bishop admitted he was surprised to learn that his parishioner was a member of Merrill’s Marauders, though he realizes that’s the way many of the World War II veterans were. “They went about things quietly,” he points out.

The soldiers knew from the beginning the risks of the mission, and that we considered expendable. There was no game plan to get them out of Burma. 

Julie Esty, an avid history buff, notes, “All of these men, all of our veterans, are threads in the tapestry of this Valley. It’s important to remember what they accomplished.”

She says there are many local men who did extraordinary things, such as Walter Grantz, age 95,  of South Scranton, a World War II combat medic who helped rescue prisons from a Nazi concentration camp. 

Robert Nicholson was one of five soldiers from West Side and another from the Lackawanna Valley who were inducted into service for World War II and then Dearly Departed Marauders badgevolunteered for the dangerous mission in the China/Burma/India theater. In addition to Nicholson and Sevensky, they were Ivor Morgan, Robert Evans, Joseph Magnotta and Arthur Richards Jr. When their mission was complete, all members of the Merrill’s Marauders received a Bronze Star.

After the war, five of the group returned to the Lackawanna Valley, where they are laid to rest. On a national level, 12 surviving Marauders, now is advanced years, are seeking a Congressional Gold Medal for the group.

The Dearly Departed Players are seeking 3,000 signatures initially in support of H.R. 906 and S.743. 

Julie Esty marvels at this project, which she finds very much in the community spirit of the war years in the 1940s.

“Somehow, in the great vastness of the history archives, it landed in my lap,” she says. “With the Dearly Departed Players, we are on a really amazing mission, and if people help us, something really good will come of it.”