Board member Patti Penny, left, and Tiffany Mims, cemetery superintendent, say $30,000 is the fundraising goal for Saturday's "Hayride Through History" at Maple Park Cemetery. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

OPINION |

Think of some of the greatest teachers and educators in the Ozarks. I’m sure you know many who are alive and well. But the ones I want you to think of have to be dead. And they have to be buried at Maple Park Cemetery.

As part of the Maple Park Cemetery Association’s annual fundraiser Saturday, Nov. 5, the cemetery will bring to life — via local actors — five historical educators who will stand by the actual graves of those they portray and will tell their stories.

The event, called “Hayrides Through History,” starts at 11 a.m. It features hayrides through the fall foliage of the cemetery, established in 1876. The hayrides will occur every 45 minutes to 3:15 p.m. The trailer can accommodate 20-30 people at a time.

The cemetery is at 300 W. Grand St.; the association is non-profit.

Tickets are available and can be purchased at the cemetery on Saturday. They are $50, which includes a barbecue lunch, for those 11 and older. It is $25 for children under 11.

The hayride will stop at the gravesites of these five influential educators:

Jonathan Fairbanks (1828-1917) He was Springfield’s first superintendent of public schools. Fairbanks Elementary School was named after him. It closed in 2006 and is now the Fairbanks Community Center, 1126 N. Broadway Ave.

Mary Boyd (1835-1919) — She taught in Springfield for 41 years. Boyd Elementary School is named after her. She became assistant principal at the school when she was 76. Boyd Elementary is now at 833 E. Division St.

Dr. Anna Lou Blair (1882 to 1965) — She was a professor of German and French and was head of the foreign language department from 1943 to 1957 at what was then Southwest Missouri State University and now is Missouri State University. The two-towered Blair-Shannon House, a residence house, is named after her and James W. Shannon, an MSU history professor and head of the history department.

George Ashley (1844-1877) — He was the first professor at what was then Drury College and is now Drury University. He was born in Ashburn, England, and was a professor of literature, rhetoric and Greek. An obelisk marks his gave at Maple Park. Engraved at the base are the words: “I gave my life to Drury.”

Newton Rountree (1838-1907) — He was a school board member and the grandson of the first teacher in Greene County, Joseph Rountree. Rountree Elementary School, 1333 Grand St., is named after Joseph Rountree.

The theme of education and educators for the fundraiser also is represented in the silent auction, which closes online at midnight Saturday. Bids can resume in person on Saturday.

Items for auction include classic wooden school desks, vintage metal lunch boxes, as well as a copy of the 1947 Drury yearbook, which includes a photo of Robert “Bob” Barker, former long-time host of “The Price is Right.”

In addition, there are non-educational items available in the silent auction, such as four tickets (available in total or in two separate sets of two) to the Nov. 27 Kansas City Chiefs versus the Los Angeles Rams football game.

Anxiously waiting for the stage to arrive

I visited Tiffany Mims, cemetery superintendent, Friday at her office in the small, charming stone building on cemetery grounds.

Also present was Patti Penny, vice president of the cemetery’s board of directors and overseer of fundraising. She founded the company Penmac and was the 2017 Springfieldian of the Year.

Penny was anxiously awaiting the arrival of a stage, which will be placed next to the gazebo. Youth performers from the Springfield Little Theatre are expected to dance on it Saturday.

The fundraising goal this year is $30,000. The money will be used to paint and restore the fence that runs along south Jefferson Avenue.

Last year’s event was a major success

Last year’s fundraising event was similar. It had hayrides and actors portraying noted people buried there, including legendary News-Leader photographer Elizabeth “Betty Love” (1910-1984.) But last year there was not a unifying theme.

The 2021 event was a success, netting $53,000. The money went to restore the historic and distinctive iron fence, built in 1886, at the cemetery’s perimeter along Grand Street and partially south along both Jefferson and Campbell avenues.

Last year’s fundraising event was a success. It netted $53,000. The money was used to restore historic iron fencing made in 1886. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

(Most of the fence along Jefferson Avenue is not historic.)

This will be the association’s fourth year of having a major fundraiser.

Future fundraisers might also have themes

The first one kicked off at what was then the newly-opened Hotel Vandivort in downtown Springfield. A vintage horse-drawn hearse was at the entrance.

The second featured a Carl A. Bissman home tour and lecture. Bissman (1893-1951) was an architect who designed several homes in the University Heights and Phelps Grove neighborhoods.

Penny likes the idea of a theme for future fundraising events.

This year it was educators. In coming years, she says, it could be doctors, lawyers or artists.

This is Pokin Around column No. 72.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin