GREAT FALLS — On Sunday, the 11th annual "Waking The Dead" tours of Highland Cemetery were held to tell stories of famous and notable Great Falls residents, while taking you directly to their final resting place.
Sponsored by the Paris Gibson Month Celebration Committee, in cooperation with the Great Falls Park & Recreation Department, two tours were conducted on Sunday afternoon.
Highland Cemetery is home to the graves of many prominent Montanans, including city founder Paris Gibson, famed artist Charles Russell, and actor George Montgomery.
Guests experienced the stories of these notable people brought to life with storytellers dressed to look like each historical figure.
Graves that were featured and their storytellers:
- Paris Gibson, founder of Great Falls: Greg Kinder
- Valeria Gibson, wife of Paris Gibson: Kari Woods
- Fra Dana, artist: Paula Egan-Wright
- George Montgomery, actor: Elliot Merja
- Sam A. Stephenson, banker, rancher: John Stephenson-Love
- Governor Edwin Norris: Dirk Larsen
- Charles Russell, cowboy artist: Bill Bronson
- Nancy Russell, Charles Russell’s wife: Carol Bronson
- John & Mattie Castner, founders of Belt: Ken Robison and Taniya Reovan
- Fred Jones, smokestack worker: Darren Smith
- Capt. John Moran, Medal of Honor winner: Dwight Smith
“Some very famous people like Paris Gibson and Charlie Russell stand out. My grandfather, Sam, was quite famous but not in the same league of notoriety as those two, but he was very prominent,” said John Stephenson-Love, a Waking The Dead storyteller and grandson to #4 on the tour, Sam Stephenson.
Guests were given the option to ride or walk on the tours, and at the conclusion of their tour, they were given a free booklet with the stories of the graves and photos.
Digital recordings of the tours were made available for purchase, and copies of the tours are given to the Great Falls History Museum and Public Library archives each year.
The date of the tours each year is scheduled for the Sunday afternoon closest to the birthday of the founder of Great Falls, Paris Gibson, which falls on July 1st. This year marks his 191st birthday.
“Oh, I love it! I think the first one I did was William Ulm and it was just by a fluke that I got this part because the guy that did it was out of town or something, and now this is my, I don’t know, 3rd or 4th year here and yeah, it’s great,” said Greg Kinder, a Waking The Dead storyteller portraying Paris Gibson.
Money raised from the tours each year are used to improve Highland Cemetery or the Great Falls community.