Family-friendly 'Spirit Walk' brings history back to life at Temple Hill Cemetery

Geneseo Central School junior Mallory Crane used a bit of ghostly local history to benefit Geneseo's financially struggling Temple Hill Cemetery on Saturday Oct. 26. The family-friendly Spirit Walk was the last in a series of four public service projects that Crane organized as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award.

“The Gold Award is the highest award in Girl Scouts, equivalent to an Eagle Award,” Crane said, and to earn it, she must complete 80 hours of community service with a self-created project.

Crane was entirely responsible for the creation and execution of the Spirit Walk, complete with in-costume characters, candle-lined paths, full historical scripts, hot cider and donuts.

She has organized four fundraisers and maintenance projects in the past year, all benefiting Temple Hill, which has been struggling in recent years as the income from lot sales and funerals has not been enough to keep up with costs.

“They're in a bit of a financial pinch right now,” Crane said. “And so, I thought, since they needed help and I had a reason to be here, I'd help them out.”

In order to raise funds, there were suggested donations of $5 per person or $20 per family, with all proceeds directly benefiting Temple Hill Cemetery.

At the event, tour guides led groups to historic gravesites where, at each stop, performers acted out brief biographies of the deceased Geneseo personality.

Geneseo professor of education Philip Natoli played William Brodie, a famous Geneseo freemason who laid the cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty.

Other famous characters on the tour included Revolutionary War soldier Horatio Jones, Governor John Young, Civil War General James Wadsworth, Historian Lockwood L. Doty and others.

Natoli also recruited some students from his CURR 320: Arts & Career Education in Community class to act as tour guides throughout the night, including juniorsAlexandra Lionetti, Melinda Kuwik and Taryn Burris.

Despite the creepy location, Crane's Spirit Walk stayed true to Geneseo's historic roots by taking a nonscary approach to Halloween-inspired fun.

“I wanted it to involve families,” Crane said. “And having things pop out at little kids from behind headstones didn't seem like it would attract a lot of people.

“The cemetery is very old - it's one of the most historic places in town,” she said. “There's a lot you can find to talk about history-wise, so I decided that was the route to go.”