Cemetery actors look ‘so real, it’s eerie’

The re-dedication ceremony Thursday at the Biloxi City Cemetery looks to be a picture from the past, according to organizer Grace Johansen of the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce.

A 15-minute ceremony featuring Bishop Thomas J. Rodi and Mayor A.J. Holloway will begin at 6 p.m. at the beachfront section of the cemetery, but the most-anticipated part of the event, Johansen said, will be the seven graveside re-enactors who will portray noted Biloxians buried in the cemetery.

“We had a dress rehearsal Monday and they were fabulous,” Johansen said. “The three high school kids were great, the adults were great, and some are so real, it’s eerie.”

Among the re-enactors from St. Patrick High School will be Allie Underwood, who will represent “Amelia,” a stereotypical young seafood factory worker from the 1890s; Roman Bartholomew, who will portray Lazaro Lopez, a seafood pioneer who became a city leader and philanthropist; Jasmine Roberts, who will portray Constant Lewis, the Lopez family caretaker/nurse.

Other re-enactors include Mary Louise Atkinson, who will portray family ancestor Marie Ladner Couevas; Ray Bellande, who will depict one of his Caillavet ancestors; Walter Freeman, who will portray Brig. General Joseph Robert Davis of the Confederate army; and Cynthia Baker Powell, who will portray Harriet “Grandma” Aken, a woman who lived on Deer Island and raised a number of orphans.

Said Johansen: “The thing that makes this so unique is that we have actual descendents doing the re-enactments in several cases.”

Groups of 10 to 12 will be led on guided tours through the 40,000-square foot section of the cemetery where more than 200 tombstones and 10 crypts were refurbished after being demolished by Hurricane Katrina.

The Beau Rivage will provide free food and drink for the ceremony, which ends at sunset. Visitors should park in the parking lot behind the Biloxi Elks Lodge, which is immediately west of the cemetery. The cemetery itself is two blocks west of the Biloxi Lighthouse.

Cruisin’ the downtown area

To see photos from this morning’s Downtown Biloxi Block Party, click here.