Alaska Life

Photos: Stories at the Cemetery profiles Anchorage pioneers and notables

A few hundred people gathered at Anchorage Memorial Cemetery Park on Sunday to watch the summer’s final presentation of Stories at the Cemetery. The performances feature costumed actors on a stage portraying 10 Alaskans who helped make Anchorage the city we know today.

Rachel Gregory was first to take the stage, portraying one of William “Lucky” Baldwin’s wives. Born in Quebec, Lucky eventually moved to Alaska in 1905, settled in Anchorage around 1929 and opened a grocery store. Gregory shared that Lucky purchased his headstone years in advance and kept it under his bed. Lucky now rests in Pioneers Tract 10 in the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery.

“We started Stories at the Cemetery in 2011,” Audrey Kelly said. Kelly and her husband, Bruce, took over the late John Bagoy’s Summer Solstice Tour, a biographical-style guided tour of gravesites.

“We changed the biography-style event, which led to Stories at the Cemetery,” she said. “Biographies that work out well as a story. I think you have a really good sense of what early days in Anchorage were like. There are so many characters here and the cemetery is full of them.”

Bagoy began leading tours in the cemetery in 1995 with the support of the Cook Inlet Historical Society and Anchorage Historic Properties. When he died in 2005, Kelly said, his wife passed along his research materials.

“John Bagoy said years ago he wanted to share the history of Anchorage with the people of Anchorage.” Kelly said. “I’m really excited. It’s 2023 and we are still sharing the stories of some really fabulous characters.”

Stories at the Cemetery is presented every June 21 — summer solstice — with a guided walk featuring 10 selected biographies. On the second Sunday of July, the format is a self-guided walk to 10 gravesites with presentations by costumed actors. On the second Sunday in August, the July actors repeat their presentations on a stage in the cemetery.

Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a staff photojournalist at the Anchorage Daily News.