Greenlawn’s “Story of Us” curtailed by COVID-19

A poignant act at a past Story of Us, where boys in the military were writing home to their parents.

The Story of Us the nurses that were so important in the war, just another great scene of what this event is all about.

Another great depiction from last year’s Story of Us about women suffrage, when a factory fire happened and the ladies discuss what had happened.

Past Story of Us with a one of the tour groups watching one of the many separate acts that are presented at this event.

PORTSMOUTH — For the past three years as the fall colors started to emerge throughout Greenlawn cemetery, the Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery Foundation (FOGCF) prepared for the annual production of “The Story of Us.”

Each year different from the past and each year larger than the previous. In 2019 more than 100 cast and crew were costumed as FOGCF profiled the stories of “The Brave Ones,” women who had made an impact throughout the history of the community to sold out crowds. Complete with a burning building and other incredible sets, a grieving widow burying her husband in Potter’s Field or the arrival of the Sisters of Saint Francis who would go on to found Mercy Hospital, FOGCF transported participants back into a different era in Portsmouth.

FOGCF Board Members pastor John Gowdy and Debbie Gambill have announced the postponement of The Story of Us IV, “The Streets Where You Live.”

“Unfortunately, 2020 is an unusual year for everyone and we do not believe there is any way we can provide a safe environment for the patrons while ensuring another quality, inspirational performance,” Gambill said.

Due to the large number of guests, cast and choir members, FOGCF has been advised to postpone the 2020 Story of Us production. Although disappointed, the health and safety of the community are of the utmost importance to FOGCF.

“It has been our pleasure to bring these original productions to the community each year. We are also disappointed as the annual production of “The Story of Us” is our major fundraiser with the funds already earmarked for new restoration projects in the cemetery, we understand and are embracing the opportunity to do other things this fall,” Gowdy said.

“There is no doubt this will be a major financial hit for our organization,” Gambill explained. “We will regroup and as a community, we will be stronger.”

“Most of you have watched our progress with the Chapel Restoration, the installation of the Serenity Garden in a partnership with Southern Ohio Medical Center and over the coming weeks you will see where the remaining money from last years’ event has been used. In an alliance with the Portsmouth Rotary Club, a new wrought iron archway will grace the Offnere Street Entrance as near to the original as physically possible. You will see us work with the Portsmouth City Schools to erect an Information Board near the office area to provide location guidance for visitors and you will see continued restoration and preservation throughout the 40-acre site. “

Both Gowdy and Gambill wanted to assure the public, one hundred percent of the money they receive through donations goes directly to the projects and they are so very grateful for the support they have received.”

“Many of you viewed our recent collaboration with Dr. Logan Minter from Shawnee State University as he highlighted some of the historical trees presently on-site throughout the cemetery,” pastor Gowdy added. “We are hoping you will take advantage of the beautiful fall weather to trace the steps taken by Logan and myself to view the trees in person.”

During the coming weeks, the Friends of Greenlawn will be uploading to their Facebook and website, the physical walking maps depicting the routes from the previous three “Story of Us” productions. These uploads will be spaced over several weeks and months to allow time to enjoy each of them.

The FOGCF will be making this information and the videos available to help individuals walk the route taken during the first production “A Lamplight Tour” that highlighted some of the early founder.

“This will help you imagine what Colonel Peter Kinney felt as he addressed his troops during the Civil War or how feel how a selfless Bessie Tomblin sacrificed everything to save her infant daughter during the 1937 flood,” Gowdy said.

participants will hear a young mother who has lost the last of her many children to illness after a trip to a Wild West Show or understand the anxiety of nurses during the Civil War who worked without much needed supplies.

Gowdy pointed out “As you stand at the grave of Bernard and Magdelena Glockner, you see the tenacity and leap of faith these families made as they built a life in the frontier town called “Portsmouth.” “

As guests walk the route of the second production, “Portsmouth Goes to War” they will stand at the gravesite of a young soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice with his life over Belgium and never met his infant child. His widow would go on to touch the lives of so many young people. Participants will feel the enormous worry as a father and mother read letters from their three sons each serving their country in Europe. Greenlawn has so many incredible stories of heroism.”

“We are hopeful you will be able to use the downloadable maps and watch the videos to recapture the magical nights when we stood on the nearly 175-year-old brick streets under the vintage Edison lights as almost one thousand people gathered over two nights to celebrate those who came before us,” Gambill added.

She assured the community “We do want you to know we have already selected the subjects and themes for the next three installments of “The Story of Us” and are optimistic they will be even better as we improve as storytellers of our past. “

“Your support for our organization and its’ mission has been humbling and we will continue to work very hard to make you proud,” Gowdy said .“ On behalf of the Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery Foundation, we cannot thank you enough.”

The Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery Foundation is a 501(c)(3) Corporation and donations can be sent to P.O. Box 333, Portsmouth, OH 45662 or on their FACEBOOK page.

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