Idlewilde Cemetery ‘residents’ are not forgotten, thanks to Cemetery Tales

Annual program runs Sept. 9-11

CAST members, from left: Lorre Chester-Rea, Roger Blashfield, Niko Yasui, Kathy Peldyak, 
Peter Tappert, Matt Rankin, Brenda Hering, Gary Young. (Not pictured: Kathy Williams.)

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
CAST members, from left: Lorre Chester-Rea, Roger Blashfield, Niko Yasui, Kathy Peldyak, Peter Tappert, Matt Rankin, Brenda Hering, Gary Young. (Not pictured: Kathy Williams.)

The eighth annual “Cemetery Tales” living history program returns Sept. 9-11 with the theme, “Actions Create Change.”

Guests will hear six stories of “ordinary” people who are buried in the cemetery, courtesy of local residents who research and write the life stories and perform them, in costume, before audiences of a dozen or so at a time.


Director Dottie Gilbertson

The eighth annual Cemetery Tales cast is the most experienced yet. All but one have performed between one and four times before. The “newcomer,” Gary Young, has not portrayed an Idlewilde “resident” in a past Cemetery Tales, but he is an experienced actor, as his bio (below) reveals.

In her third year as director is Dottie Gilbertson, who has been involved in the program since its start in 2009.

Supporters include Bob Huskey, sexton and member of the Board of Directors of Idlewilde Cemetery; Copper West Properties; Hood River Public Storage; Sydney Blaine Education Grant from the Community Foundation; Gorham Babson Family Fund; Elaine Johnson; Heart of Hospice; and Les Henry, CPA.

Cemetery Tales characters and their portrayers:

Jim Hathorn — Jim moved his family to Hood River from an eastern Oregon ranch in 1908. Jim worked hauling coal and moving dirt in excavation projects.

May Hathorn — May was a cook and a housewife. They raised their six children in a concrete block house on Taylor Street, which is still standing and occupied. Emily (Emma) May Barton was born in 1878 in Nebraska. She was a wife, mother and a good neighbor. A day’s work was long and did not bring her much in the way of riches but she raised a happy family and is fondly remembered by her grandchildren as a kind person ready with lemon cookies or other treats from her kitchen.

Roger Blashfield (Jim) retired from Auburn University in Alabama and moved to Hood River five years ago. He volunteers at the Hood River History Museum and helps with algebra/geometry at the high school. Roger and his wife are competitive ballroom dancers. He has been in Cemetery Tales three times in the past.

Lorre Chester-Rea (May) has lived in Hood River for 16 years and was in the first-ever production of Cemetery Tales in 2009. She is grateful to the Hathorn family for their enthusiastic support of this effort and to Roger Blashfield for suggesting she join the project. She has two sons, doesn’t bake nearly enough, and tends to the office at Riverside Community Church.


Brenda Hering laughs with costumer Roberta Schlemmer as she tries on a pair of 1970s eyeglasses.

Brick Stratton — Frank “Brick” Stratton, was a quiet (at times), outgoing person who, thanks to AA, overcame his addiction to alcohol. His commitment to bring others to sobriety formed the backbone of AA in the Gorge today. Brick and Bertha Stratton were bound together by their commitment and love, although it would be safe to say they were not always on the same page. The peaceful, small public park tucked into the hillside overlooking downtown Hood River, west of the public stairs, carries the Stratton name.

Bertha Stratton — Bertha was the wife of Brick Stratton. She strong-armed and supported her husband through the toughest years of their lives together. Bertha had a big secret that she kept to the end. Bertha, like many wives during the war years, managed the home, earned a living and played a quiet but vital role in the community. In the end Bertha had a surprise for many in Hood River.

Brenda Hering (Bertha) is returning to Cemetery Tales this year, playing second banana to Gary Young. She knows that passing stories down is how we stay connected.

Gary Young (Brick) moved to the Gorge in 1986. He has been active in many theater productions and has directed a number of beloved local stage productions, including “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “Judgement Call.” Gary retired as the director of Spiritual Care at Providence Hood River and shares life and travels with his spouse Barbara.


Cemetery Tales tickets must be reserved, and are $18 general, or $15 for members of The History Museum of Hood River County, which co-sponsors the event with Idlewilde. Tickets may be reserved at Eventbrite; for details, call 541-386-6772.

The tours start at the Hood River Valley Adult Center, 2010 Sterling Place, which also offers a dinner on Sept. 9 — cost is $12 and separate from the Cemetery Tales admission. Reservations are required by calling the Center at 541-386-2060. A minimum of 50 reservations are required. Proceeds will benefit Meals on Wheels.

Performances are 90 minutes long and leave every 15 minutes by shuttle bus from Hood River Valley Adult Center. In making a reservation, choose a time slot that bests suits you. Performances are outside, and held rain or shine. Friday and Saturday shows start at 5:30 p.m., meaning some time slots are in full daylight, others in dusk and nighttime. Sunday’s performances start at 4 p.m., and are all in daylight. Guides escort groups, who walk short distances between sites and sit underneath awnings. (Support vehicles are provided for those with mobility challenges.)

Cemetery Tales is not appropriate for children under 12, and no animals are allowed.

William E. Bailey — William was born in 1892 in the small town of Virginia City, Mont. An orphan, Bill and his siblings were raised by aunts and uncles in Michigan. He found his way back to Montana, where he met his future wife, Birdie Hazel Elliot. They married in 1923. Soon they moved to Coos Bay, where Bill worked for the Union Oil Company. They had one daughter, Laura Yuvonne, and in 1932, Bill moved his family to Hood River. Here he established The Hood River Bottling Works, which supplied the area with soda. In 1946, Bill and Hazel sold the company to friends and remained in the community throughout the rest of their lives.

Hazel Bailey — Hazel was born in 1895, in Hamilton, Mont. She was part of a close knit family of six. Her father died when she was quite young. Hazel married Bill in in 1923 in Missoula. While they could be cantankerous with each other, Hazel (also known as Hadie) was supportive and worked alongside Bill at the Hood River Bottling Works. Theirs was a steadfast and loving partnership. Hazel enjoyed cooking for and entertaining family and friends. She was a faithful member of the Baptist Church.

This is Matt Rankin’s (Bill) second year as an actor in Cemetery Tales. His short resume in theater includes the CAST productions of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” Bill is an active member of the community, involved in several groups and volunteer activities. Matt is also a husband to Dawn, father to Abby, exercise coach, wanna-be fly fisherman, average golfer, data analyst and real estate agent.

Kathy Peldyak (Hazel) is excited to be performing for the second time in Cemetery Tales, having portrayed Martha Tucker last year, and now in the role of Hazel Bailey. Kathy has been a speech pathologist for the Hood River County School District, serving children throughout the valley for 30 years. Kathy has a husband and three grown children. She enjoys nothing better than donning a costume, but most often can be found costuming teenage thespians at Hood River Valley High School.

Dr. Frampton Brosius — Dr. Brosius arrived in Hood River in the early 1890s, and established himself as a prominent physician. His civic engagement, including a few years as mayor, ushered Hood River into the modernity of the 20th century.

This is Peter Tappert’s (Dr. Brosius) second year as a performer in Cemetery Tales. He is married with three children and is involved with local community theater.

Emma Brosius — Emma valued family, community, order and stability. She was married to Frampton Brosius, the second mayor of Hood River, who is also appearing in Cemetery Tales. Emma was a typical woman of her times. Her roles as wife, mother, daughter and church member defined her days. But in 1925, Emma’s life was turned upside down and she struggled to find a new path.

Kathy Williams (Emma) enjoys all aspects of community theater, both on stage and behind the scenes. She performs, writes, directs, stage manages and enjoys bringing stories to life. Kathy’s most recent show was The Mayors’ Independence Eve Celebration at the Bingen Theater, which she wrote and co-produced. She is also involved with STAGES, the newest branch of CGOA.


Niko Yasui portrays his great-uncle, Minoru Yasui

Minoru Yasui — Minoru was a civil rights fighter his entire life. He fought for the rights of all American citizens regardless of color, race, or creed. His mission to never give up in the fight for equality rings true now as it did for him during his lifetime.

Niko Yasui (Minoru) is the great-nephew of Min Yasui and is proud to be playing the role of his much admired ancestor. Niko has been teaching English at Hood River Valley High School for 10 years and is currently the activities director for the school. He was born and raised in Hood River, where he has lived his entire life. This is Niko’s second year as a performer in Cemetery Tales.

Kate Dougherty, as Mrs. Ellen Blowers, will welcome Cemetery Tales visitors to Idlewilde and tell something of the history of the cemetery. Kate has participated in Cemetery Tales for years, and she enjoys history, especially about the area we view every day. Working for the County Building Department and playing trumpet, Kate enjoys participating in our growing community. Raising two teenagers introduces Kate to many new experiences and keeps her young.

Ellen Blowers’ family settled in Hood River in the 1880’s from Minnesota. Her eldest son became the first mayor of Hood River. Mrs. Blowers and her successful businessman husband watched this town grow. While her husband helped establish his businesses, she bore eight children. Her husband had the former “Gatchel House,“ built for her before her death in 1908.

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