Local history honored at Columbia Cemetery

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COLUMBIA - Hundreds celebrated the historic aspect of Memorial Day at the Columbia Cemetery Monday.

Attendees traveled from grave site to grave site to listen to monologues honoring the history of nine of Columbia's influential figures. 

"It's really a powerful interaction with history," said Nollie Moore, who portrayed Walter Williams, founder of the Missouri School of Journalism.

Some of the other recognizable figures included Ann Gentry, the first post-mistress in Missouri; James Rollins, who helped establish MU; and Sgt. Wallace Lily, who served with the U.S. Colored Troops and founded the Black Masonic Lodge in Columbia.

“A lot of these names are familiar because of the school and the town, so it’s a great history lesson,” attendee Ann Anderson said.

Cindy Mustard, one of the event planners, estimates attendance was close to a thousand people. 

“I’m happy to see this large turn out for Memorial Day, honoring it, as it should be for both soldiers and prominent people of Columbia who have made a difference in our community," said attendee Joan Rawson.

Monday's event is the first for the newly founded Friends of the Historic Columbia Community.

The group aims to bring awareness of the cemetery to the community. 

"We think it's kind of a hidden gem out here that a lot of people don't know about," Mustard said. "People say ‘Well I come down Broadway all the time, I didn’t know you had all this acreage of a cemetery back in here.'" 

Beyond Monday's event, Friends of the Historic Columbia Community plan to plant trees and repair parts of the cemetery. 

Mustard said she doesn't know if the event will become an annual one, but said there is much still to share. 

“We have a lot more interesting people here we would like to profile and show off to Columbia and let them know about our heritage and our roots here and I think its just a great way to let people to come alive," Mustard said.