History comes alive among the dead

Kiwanis fundraiser pairs dinner with living local history lessons

John R. Moses
  • The event drew about 330 people to Greenlawn Cemetery.
  • Money raised will go toward youth programs and the Farmington Museum.


Charley Tyler recited poetry and told stories in his role as newspaper co-owner Orval Ricketts during Saturday's Kiwanis Club fundraiser at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — Hundreds turned out Saturday for a chance to “dine with the dead” and learn from the living about Farmington’s pioneer past.
Greenlawn Cemetery was the venue for the Farmington Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club’s annual Dining with the Dead fundraiser.
“We want everyone to have a good time, and they do,” said Paul McQueary, an event organizer. After expenses, the club will have about $6,000 to dole out, primarily to projects that benefit children.
“Kiwanis is mostly about children. Their motto is 'changing the world by serving children, one child and one community at a time,'” McQueary said.
At least 325 people dined under warm and partly-cloudy skies on brisket, beans, cole slaw and potato salad before groups trekked toward costumed presenters like Steven Clark, who produced a melodious British accent as he resurrected Bloomfield merchant and community leader William B Haines. 

Steve Clark portrayed Bloomfield's William B. Haines, a pioneer merchant, during Saturday's Dining with the Dead fundraiser at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington

Complete with a six-gun and holster, Clark held court beneath a large spruce tree as he recounted lawlessness, commerce and a bit of commodity price-gouging during a particularly nasty winter when flour went for $17 a pound. 
The resulting cash pile, he noted, “was almost enough to buy a horse.”
Clark will soon have tales of commerce all his own, as he is opening a comic book store soon.
Resident Charley Tyler brought newspaper publisher Orval Ricketts back for a command performance at the Ricketts family gravesite. Although he admitted he couldn’t come up with some of the unique garb Ricketts wore, he did score a perfect hat and came armed with some of the newsman’s original poetry.
This was Tyler’s fifth year as a performer at the event. Among his previous roles was a portrayal of Thomas Jefferson Arrington.
“I was the co-owner of the Farmington Times,” Tyler said in his presentation as Ricketts. “I served for a number of years, then I took time off to go to Santa Fe to handle a publicity campaign for U.S. Senator Bronson Cutting who was running for reelection. While in Santa Fe I published the first of five book of poems that I’d written. 'Sketches of Santa Fe' was dedicated to the U.S. senator."  
“I began writing poetry as a means to enlarge my vocabulary,” he continued as Ricketts. “I can remember sitting up at night reading the dictionary, hunting for rhyming antonyms.”
Tyler capped off the presentation with one of Ricketts’ verses:
“Our spirits stir in the quiet sun, and we think of the still, small voice Elijah hears on the mountainside that made his heart rejoice. For we are all creatures of the mind that made both man and hill, and know him best when our heart is calm and all the world is still.” 
For volunteer Judy Castleberry, the event had a personal side – she portrayed her great grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Rhodes King. She painted a picture of a rich and rewarding life filled with joy, tragedy and pioneer ingenuity.
“We worked very hard,” Castleberry said, portraying Rhodes King. “We had to clear land, we planted crops, we planted a huge garden every year. We put in an orchard where our apples did so well we ended up buying a building and packing house so we could ship apples across the country.”
Passing around a family photo she noted that the King name from that line of descendants has vanished in San Juan County – the children were mostly girls.

Rebecca Morgan entertained visitors as pioneer Mary Hudson Brothers with tales of outlaws and a lively family history in old New Mexico Saturday at the Dining with the Dead fundraiser.

Minister Rebecca Morgan portrayed Mary Hudson Brothers, whose protective father taught her to play guitar so they could entertain crowds that included famous outlaws. Dad played the fiddle.
Her character shared that she thought playing for the crowds “was a pretty neat thing to do, until I figured out he had me up there on the stage with him instead out there on the dance floor with the outlaws and rough men. Turns out he was a pretty smart man,” she said as the crowd chuckled.
McQueary said only nine of the tickets sold were not used.
Proceeds from Dining with the Dead will go to benefit the Farmington Museum and Kiwanis Children’s Programs, which supports high school Key Clubs and other service endeavors for youth, he said.

Contact John R. Moses at jmoses@daily-times.com or call 505-564-4624.