Most Viewed Stories
Dining with the dead
Yuma's earliest citizens portrayed by local actors, history buffs
The Yuma Sun will be giving away tickets for Dining With the Dead. The giveaway will begin Monday morning.
For details, go to www.Facebook.com/YumaSunNews. Winners will be announced late Monday afternoon.
The Yuma Sun is giving away tickets to Dining With the Dead. The giveaway will begin Monday morning.
For details go to Facebook.com/YumaSunNews
Once a year, interesting people from Yuma's past rise from their graves for just one night to tell their stories with borrowed voices.
It's happening again this Saturday.
Fifteen historic figures are expected to speak, but the living interested in listening will have to go to them. The meeting place? The dusty paths of the Yuma Pioneer Cemetery.
This marks the 11th year that the Genealogical Society of Yuma has hosted its popular Dining With the Dead event. Some of Yuma's earliest citizens are portrayed by local actors, history buffs, and whenever possible, by that person's own living descendents. Re-enactors tell their stories and visit with the living as they stand as close as possible to their historic character's actual grave.
Then, once all the tales are told, living and dead alike sit down to enjoy the event's traditional meal – some delicious barbecue.
Event organizers say their unique recipe for mixing history with entertainment and good food fills the cemetery with about 250 living, breathing people each year.
“Oh, they love it! People come back every year,” said Betsy Gottsponer with the Genealogical Society of Yuma. “We have people who haven't missed a year, and this is our 11th.”
She added that many events tell third-person tales through guides and tours, but organizers of this event always wanted something more personal.
“It's one thing to have a person standing there saying ‘My grandfather did this and he did that.' It's something much more fascinating to hear that person say ‘This is what I did.' It feels like you are hearing the stories right from the person,'” Gottsponer said. “And you are standing as close to that person's grave as we can.”
Chuckling, she added that some re-enactors are forced to point to given graves because sandy sinkholes make walking any closer more than a bit precarious.
Historic figures to be portrayed this year include Sheriff James T. Dana, who died in 1871 after being shot with a glass-tipped arrow. He had been riding with a posse in search of a man who murdered a woman in Arizona City, which is what Yuma used to be called.
Thomas Ess will portray the legendary Yuma sheriff.
“I find the character interesting, not just because he was one of the first sheriffs in Yuma County, but that he also seemed to be one of the fanciest dressing sheriffs,” Ess said. “It's also interesting that he was actually killed in the line of duty and is listed in Arizona's archives as an officer killed in the line of duty.”
Gottsponer herself will be portraying her great grandmother, Rose Livingston, the wife of territorial sheriff Gus Livinston.
“She was a very colorful character. At one time she served as juvenile probation officer. And she was strict. I was 9 when Rose died,” she said, adding that she researched her ancestor through old records, newspapers, telegraphs and family stories.
“We give each re-enactor a lot more material than they possibly use, so they can keep it to what they feel comfortable talking about. We also give them background information on Yuma for the time period they are portraying.”
Gottsponer's daughter will portray Rose Livingston's daughter, Ruby, who married E.F. Sanguinetti's nephew, Norman Adair, for whom the Adair Gun Range is named.
“Ruby won Yuma's Most Popular Girl in 1909 and 1910 and was one of the first beauticians in Yuma,” Gottsponer said. “She also did a lot of singing, so my daughter will be singing a few pieces that night.”
The Yuma Pioneer Cemetery is located at 1st Avenue and 13th Street near the Yuma Police Station. Tours will begin at 4 p.m. near the flagpole, located on the east side of the cemetery.
Dinner will be catered by John and Margie's Ranch House, with serving from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Tours will continue through 8 p.m.
Guests are encouraged to wear good walking shoes and bring a jacket and flashlight.
Tickets for the dinner and tour are $25. Tickets are available at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, 201 N. 4th Ave., and at the Book Nook, 11242 S. Foothills Blvd. Ticket sales will close at 1 p.m. on the day of the event.
For more information, call (928)-446-2892 or (928)-446-0176.
Proceeds from Dining With the Dead will go toward the genealogical society's ongoing efforts to digitize the early records of Yuma.
Darin Fenger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6860.