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200 North Main St | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428
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25th Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, the Museum, Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, and Illinois Voices Theatre—Echoes came together to solve a growing problem in our community—cemetery vandalism. Leaders at these entities realized that there was a great need in our community to educate the public, especially students, about the importance of preserving and respecting cemeteries as part of our collective history. Cemetery vandalism was a major problem, particularly in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, Bloomington’s oldest cemetery. Thus began the Evergreen Cemetery Walk with the mission of preventing further vandalism by teaching members of the community about the historical importance of cemeteries and the need to treat them with respect and reverence. This plan was accomplished by using the voices of the people who are buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, individuals who helped shape and create our local history.

Overview

Every year the Evergreen Cemetery Walk brings the voices of McLean County's history to life. Costumed actors portray individuals representing all walks of life from the county's past on the beautiful grounds of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. This event serves about 3,500 people (mostly students) every year. To date, we have featured 172 different individuals from all walks of life, whose stories illustrate the impact the people of McLean County have had on history – locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. In addition, the impact of the Evergreen Cemetery Walk can be felt throughout the state and nation. 

This award-winning, nationally recognized interpretive program is often referred to as the "granddaddy" of all cemetery walks. Put on your walking shoes and bring your family to participate in this fascinating, outdoor theatrical program.

Evergreen Memorial Cemetery is one of the richest historical resources in our community. People from all walks of life are buried in this over 150 year old cemetery. Rich, poor, famous, infamous, loved or forgotten alike, they are all buried here. Evergreen provides an honorable resting place for all members of our community. 

This annual event is a collaboration between the McLean County Museum of History, Illinois Voices Theatre Echoes and Evergreen Memorial Cemetery

School Tours

The McLean County Museum of History is pleased to announce that all students participating in the School Tours of the 2019 Evergreen Cemetery Walk will attend for FREE. We are committed to reaching out to diverse communities and removing barriers so that we can help as many students as possible discover our local history. Through the generosity of this year's sponsor, Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, and support from our members, admission fees for students and chaperones to attend the 2019 Evergreen Cemetery Walk have been waived.

Please note that you will be walking approximately 1 mile, and standing listening to the actors for 5-7 minutes each. Each tour lasts 1.5-2 hours. 

We will have a limited number of wheelchairs and seat canes available to borrow for free, but if you have your own please bring it!

Registration for the 2019 School Tours of the Evergreen Cemetery Walk will begin on April 15.

School invite 2019 email version

Home School invite 2019 email version

Location

Evergreen Memorial Cemetery is located at 302 E. Miller Street, Bloomington IL 61701. (three blocks east of Gene's Ice Cream Drive In)

2019 Schedule

  • October 5
  • Saturday
  • 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • October 6
  • Sunday
  • 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • October 12
  • Saturday
  • 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • October 13
  • Sunday
  • 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tickets

Tickets will be available for purchase starting on September 3, 2019. Please visit us to purchase tickets or for more information on purchasing tickets, please call 309-827-0428

Tickets are also for sale at the Museum, Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, and online by clicking this link (LINK COMING SOON!)

  • General Public
  • $17
  • Receive $2.00 discount on all tickets purchased before date. No discount for student or children's tickets.
  • Museum Members
  • $15
  • Receive $2.00 discount on all tickets purchased before date. No discount for student or children's tickets.
  • Children and Students
  • $5
  • Receive $2.00 discount on all tickets purchased before date. No discount for student or children's tickets.

Featured Characters 2019

  • Louise Calimese (1895-1985)
  • Louise Calimese (1895-1985)
  • Featured with Napoleon Calimese

  • Following in his father and older brother’s footsteps, Napoleon first worked as a barber on Beaufort Street in Normal. In 1920, not long after he returned home from serving during World War I, he met and married Louise Davis. Seven years later, the couple was appointed superintendent and matron of the McLean County Home for Colored Children (later renamed the Booker T. Washington Home)–having been “thoroughly recommended by businesses and professionals of Normal who [had] known them for years.” The couple oversaw the only licensed home for children of color in Illinois outside Chicago for the next three decades.

  • Read full biography

  • Napoleon Calimese (1890-1972)
  • Napoleon Calimese (1890-1972)
  • Featured with Louise Calimese

  • Following in his father and older brother’s footsteps, Napoleon first worked as a barber on Beaufort Street in Normal. In 1920, not long after he returned home from serving during World War I, he met and married Louise Davis. Seven years later, the couple was appointed superintendent and matron of the McLean County Home for Colored Children (later renamed the Booker T. Washington Home)–having been “thoroughly recommended by businesses and professionals of Normal who [had] known them for years.” The couple oversaw the only licensed home for children of color in Illinois outside Chicago for the next three decades.

  • Read full biography

  • Annie May Christian (1866 -1941)
  • Annie May Christian (1866 -1941)
  • Born in Decatur and educated in Bloomington schools, Christian was a capable, intelligent, and enthusiastic leader of the local Amateur Musical Club. She encouraged cooperation among local organizations involved in music and strove to bring high quality music to all. During World War I, the Club organized Red Cross benefit concerts and community sings, with patriotic music either starting or ending all concerts. May (as she was known) was a fiercely independent, single woman. She studied voice, and taught instrumental music, often performing publicly on the piano, as a soloist or with others.

  • Read full biography

  • Florence Stevens Kaywood (1864-1928)
  • Florence Stevens Kaywood (1864-1928)
  • Born in Bloomington in 1864 to a well-established family in McLean County, Florence Stevens was a teacher for brief time before her marriage to Harris Kaywood, but little is known about her during the years of her marriage. In 1910, she was appointed police matron by the Bloomington City Council, a position she held for the next 16 years. Police matrons were hired to take care of female prisoners and their children, which was by no means easy work. In 1919, she was credited with saving a woman who attempted suicide in her jail cell.

  • Read full biography

  • Charles Kirkpatrick (1879-1971)
  • Charles Kirkpatrick (1879-1971)
  • Having suffered the “greatest injury ever sustained by a football player in a game of schools...where the player lived and accomplished anything afterwards” while attending Bloomington High School, Kirkpatrick was determined to make something of himself despite enduring pain and fatigue the rest of his life. Using his “gift of gab” and “reasonable judgement,” he tried auctioneering. However, Kirkpatrick could not tolerate the physical demands of the job. He at last found success in 1908 after taking over his father’s small furniture business with his younger brother, which prospered for many years until it was sold to Leath & Co. in 1937. 

  • Read full biography

  • Oliver Munsell (1825-1905)
  • A devout Methodist, Munsell began a career practicing law in 1846, but immediately decided that preaching was more to his liking. He became a licensed preacher that same year and joined the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church. After serving as principal at two seminary schools, he was elected president of Illinois Wesleyan University in 1857 — a dubious honor at best, as the school’s doors had been shuttered due to financial difficulties. Though the university prospered in many ways during his 16-year presidency, he was forced to resign in 1873 amid allegations that he had been “overly familiar” with several of the female students.

  • Read full biography

  • Ebenezer Wright (1830/31-1900)
  • Ebenezer Wright (1830/31-1900)
  • Wright and his wife Mary had eight children, four of which survived to adulthood. His love of children was quite possibly what led him to his chosen profession–a social worker at the New York Juvenile Asylum. In 1867, he was made the Western Agent in Chicago and was in charge of the children as they were sent westward on the “Orphan Train.” After the Great Chicago Fire, Wright and his family relocated to Normal. There he served as the chief “placing out” agent and was assisted by other agents, including his son. Wright was proud that the NY Juvenile Asylum was the only “child saving” institution that maintained an agency in the West.

  • Read full biography

Past Character Biographies

To read biographies of past cemetery walk characters, visit the biographies page of our online resources.