LARSON: Cemetery tour brings new Norcross partnership to life

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

Baseball, bootleggers, millionaires and more. Those are just a few topics of Norcross history you can learn about on the inaugural city cemetery tour at the Historic Norcross Harvest Festival next Saturday.

Last Sunday, cemetery historian and tour guide Gene Ramsay invited me along for a practice walk-through. Of course I was just there to write about it. The rest of his entourage was there to help fine tune his presentation: Elliott Brack, author of “Gwinnett: A Little Above Atlanta,” which covers much of the county’s early history, Chuck Cimarik, of the Norcross Downtown Development Authority, Edie Riehm, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Georgia State, and Jane Holbrook, a Norcross native who actually had known some of the departed who were the subjects of Ramsay’s presentation. And everyone was very impressed.

• What: Norcross Cemetery Tour

• Where: 343 S. Cemetery St., Norcross

• When: Tours at 10 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Saturday

• Cost: $15 adults, $10 children, includes trolley tour of entire city and vignette performances by Lionheart Theatre. All proceeds go to NCSP

• For more information: Visit www.norcrossga.net

But Ramsay, a relatively new Norcross resident, brings with him more than 15 years of experience as a volunteer tour guide at Oakland Cemetery and 25 years at the Fox Theatre.

“I moved to Norcross two years ago, where there is an active and ongoing community improvement initiative, and I’m glad to have the chance to use my skills and interests to help with the 140th birthday celebration,” Ramsay said.

“It’s his passion,” his wife, Ranae Heaven, said of her husband who spent months researching the history behind all the people who are laid to rest in this century-old cemetery, including Roy Carlisle, who holds the record for the longest baseball home run.

Ramsay’s notes include detailed history of who begot whom, who married whom and even who murdered whom. He revealed retro interpretations of how these past residents would “throw a meal together” or “go with the flow.” He connected every dot along the way with dashes of his own insight and wit.

But this stroll through the past mainly serves a kickoff for the future, with the 140th anniversary serving as the focal point. This event will help support the newly organized Norcross Cluster Schools Partnership with all proceeds going directly to the local schools. The NCSP aims to inspire individuals and corporations to get involved in the Norcross schools to encourage the achievements, enrich the experiences, and enhance the opportunities of all students in the Norcross cluster.

What impressed me most from Ramsay’s cemetery tour were all the connections Ramsay found among all the past residents of Norcross and how their strong partnerships laid a foundation for the present. The NCSP seeks to create more partnerships to create an even more connected community in the future.

Susan Larson is a freelance writer who lives in Lilburn. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.