Cemetery tour relives Valley history
October 14, 2017
Marlena Hellwinkel and Linda Reid have a special interest when it comes to talking about Carson Valley history.
Even if they're doing so in a cemetery.
You see, the second-cousins are members of Valley pioneer families so there is a lot of history to share, which they will do at the Garden Cemetery in Gardnerville on Saturday when the Douglas County Historical Society hosts its family friendly cemetery tour. The tours start at 5:30 p.m., with the last scheduled to depart at 7:15.
The event has rotated annually for more than 20 years between three locations, including Genoa and Mottsville (Fredericksburg was part of the original circuit).
Participants step back in time and interact with members of long-time families appearing as their ancestors — from a World War II soldier to a diminutive business woman from Main Street Gardnerville — each with a story to share.
"I've been involved in it almost every year because we went from cemetery to cemetery," Hellwinkel said. "If I didn't do a Hellwinkel, I did a Raycraft over in Genoa and a Neddenriep at Fredericksburg, and it's all family."
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Hellwinkel (her maiden name is Neddenriep) was married 51 years to former COD Garage owner Donald Hellwinkel, whose aunt, Josephine A. Hellwinkel, taught at the old Gardnerville Grammar School (now Gardnerville Elementary).
Marlena even showed up for a photo shoot at Garden Cemetery wearing Josephine's hat and carrying her old school bell.
"She kept a list of how many students she taught here in Douglas County," Marlena said. "She had a listing of every name and their birth date, and that's all at the museum archives now."
Reid (Heitman and Neddenriep families), noted that her great grandfather, Andreas Anderson, was the first actual burial at Garden Cemetery in 1900.
"It's a real interesting way to learn some history of the Valley because it's not someone who just learned a part. They actually have the family history in their minds," she said. "It's a fun thing to do, a fun way to learn history and have a fun evening. It is a historical walk and not ghost oriented."
Tour groups are organized as the visitors show up — usually 10 to 15 persons per group — and then guides lead them around the cemetery. Reid emphasized that families and friends are encouraged to participate in the festivities.
The event will start a half-hour earlier this year to allow more participation during daylight hours. Some visitors may want to bring a flashlight and warm clothing.
"Some people say they really don't want to walk in there in the dark," Reid said. "That will give some other people a chance who have perhaps avoided coming, because by 6 things are starting to get pretty dark at that time of year."
The event provides participants a chance to mingle with others from the local area and beyond.
"An amazing number of people from Reno, Carson and even out of the area that are interested in our history," Reid said.
Fun? "Absolutely," she added.
"I've participated for a lot of years as one of the presenters and a couple of times I was the ghost of the cemetery telling the story of the cemetery — and that may happen again."