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On Oakland Cemetery tour, even the plots have plots

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On Oakland Cemetery tour, even the plots have plots

During weekends around Valentines day, couples can cozy up around tales of the past buried in Oakland

During weekends around Valentines day, couples can cozy up around tales of the past buried in Oakland

During weekends around Valentines day, couples can cozy up around tales of the past buried in Oakland

During weekends around Valentines day, couples can cozy up around tales of the past buried in Oakland

The Southerner

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BY LUCY LEONARD

The wind whipped around the majestic, marble headstones, causing the dark trees to sway madly on a chilly February afternoon. A couple walked closely together, hands entwined and heads bent forward against the cold. They scurried underneath the arch leading into Oakland Cemetery and followed the signs directing them toward the visitors center.

Inside the graveyard’s main building, an eclectic group of about 20 people squished against one another, eating candy hearts and listening to one of the docents, clad in old-fashioned costume, introduce Oakland’s Love Stories Tour. The tours ran the weekend before Valentine’s Day as a special offering in conjunction with Oakland’s general tours.

Situated on Memorial Drive, Oakland is one of Atlanta’s historic cemeteries, dating back to 1850. It is home to a myriad of famous graves, including those of Margaret Mitchell and Maynard Jackson.

Oakland offers season-specific events. In February, Oakland hosted both the Love Stories Tour as well as African-American history tours. Beginning next month, Oakland will be offering Twilight Tours from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in addition to their guided walking tours.

On this particular tour, docents brought visitors on a journey through the love lives of many of Oakland’s “residents.” Along the way, the guides also pointed out different Victorian love symbols emblazoned upon the tombstones.

“I think if we stick our arms out, the wind might blow us off course,” said docent Joan Fountain as she led the group from one grave to the next.

This year marks Fountain’s fifth year as an Oakland docent. She said she volunteers because she loves the history that lies within the cemetery.

“I love giving the tours,” Fountain said. “Where else could I dress up in wonderful costumes and teach guests about Oakland and in the process learn more about it myself?”

Stopping in front of one of the many plots, Fountain embarked on a love story about an Atlanta couple.

Clarabelle King loved her home at 1383 Ponce de Leon Ave. In fact, she loved it so much that she wanted to be buried among the flowers in her front yard. Despite her wishes, the city would not allow such an unorthodox burial. Wanting to honor her wishes, however, her husband built a large stone replica of her home on his plot in Oakland in 1900, where she could be buried among the flowers.

“Oakland is such a wonderful place because it holds not only beautiful art and architecture, but so much Atlanta history,” Fountain said.

This story was just one of the tales that brought to life the dead among Oakland’s rolling rows.

Visitor Larry Marten and his wife took the tour while on holiday from St. Louis.

“I thought both docents did a good job, especially considering the elements,” Marten said. “Their interest and enthusiasm was enjoyable.”

Both Marten and Fountain found the most interesting love story to be that of the Kisers. On his third marriage, Kiser asked to be buried in the mausoleum with his two first wives. The third wife readily agreed— on the terms that her previous husband would be exhumed and moved into the mausoleum as well.

At the conclusion of the tour, Fountain brought the group down “Lover’s Lane,” a row in Oakland with numerous loving epitaphs. She pointed out the rosemary inscribed on one headstone, telling everyone that it stands for remembrance because of its particular smell.

She bade the group to come again for another tour then sent them back to the visitors center to get warm.

“It’s said that the more you love someone or something, the more you want to know about them or it,” Fountain said. “That’s really the truth. The more I learn about our cemetery, the more I want to know and share with others.”

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On Oakland Cemetery tour, even the plots have plots