People and Happenings Volunteer Profile :
By Jennifer Johnston , Media & Communications Director
Two remarkable women — Janet Heywood and Judy Jackson — made my early years at Mount Auburn Cemetery a virtual graduate education in history .
Janet Heywood was Director of Interpretive Programs at Mount Auburn in the spring of 1997 when I applied for a job in her department . She made it abundantly clear to me that Mount Auburn was no museum but an active cemetery with daily burials , inurnments , and cremations . Just moments after I met her , she toured me through the Cemetery vaults , showing me boxes and urns of cremated remains waiting to be picked up by family members or funeral directors : in other words , the daily operations of my employer . Certainly Mount Auburn is an arboretum and a fantastic historical and cultural site . But Heywood made sure I knew that it was still primarily an active cemetery .
I had the good fortune of growing up across the street from Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira , New York , which is actually two cemeteries in one : a rolling 50 + acre property with scenic paths and lawns designed in the “ rural cemetery ” style by noted architect Howard Daniels in 1858 ; and a smaller ( now 10 + acre ) National Cemetery created in 1877 for the interment of Confederate prisoners who had died at the Elmira Prison Camp during the American Civil War . Given my connection with these historic cemeteries , I was delighted when Heywood gave me a job in her Interpretive Programs Department .
As if working with Janet wasn ’ t amazing enough , I was quickly introduced to her inner-circle of equally extraordinary friends : Barbara Rotundo , Ph . D . ( 1921 – 2004 ), Blanche M . G . Linden , Ph . D . ( 1946 – 2014 ), Bob Stymeist , and Judy Jackson — all exemplary authorities on Mount Auburn with nearly a century ’ s worth of combined years of learning about the Cemetery .
Jackson , a former Law School dean , settled in the Boston area after her retirement and quickly became a self-taught authority on local history . Like Heywood , Jackson effortlessly memorized the birth and death dates of great numbers of people buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery . I once mentioned that my birthday is on March 23rd and she immediately rattled off the names of three notable people with the same birthday buried at the Cemetery : architect Eleanor Raymond ( 1887 – 1989 ); culinary expert Fannie Merritt Farmer ( 1857 – 1915 ); and horticulturist Walter Hunnewell ( 1917 – 1999 ).
16 | Sweet Auburn
Judy Jackson and Janet Heywood , 2002
Jen Johnston and Judy Jackson on a walk at the Cemetery in 2001 .
On April 4 , 1998 , Judy led staff and a few regular visitors to place flowers on the grave of Dorothea Lynde Dix ( 1802 – 1887 ) to celebrate the birthday of that famed social reformer . Following this walk , Jackson helped organize nearly a decade of celebratory birthday walks to the graves of over 200 notable people buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery . Just last summer , Judy led the 20th anniversary tour of her first-ever Friends of Mount Auburn program , The Lawyers of Mount Auburn , which originally took place on June 11 , 1996 .
As Visitor Services Assistant Jim Gorman recalls , “ During the introduction to her 20th anniversary walk , Judy reminded everyone how so much of Boston ’ s life and history comes together within Mount Auburn . While Judy herself first visited the Cemetery with a professional interest in law , she quickly learned how many other interconnections herein exist within the realms of business , religion , science , art , horticulture , government and politics .” Not surprisingly , most individuals interred at Mount Auburn have family and friends also buried or memorialized here – which allows volunteers like Judy and staff like Jim to expand upon whatever might have been their primary topic of interest , initially bringing
them through the Egyptian Revival Gateway into the Cemetery , to a series of many returning visits .
Thanks to Judy , as well as Janet , Bob ,
Blanche , and Barbara , our present-day volunteer docents have plenty of inspiration for creating walking tours and programs about the Cemetery . Recent programs topics have included notable Abolitionists , African Americans , Architects , Armenians , Artists , Explorers , Innovators in Medicine , Inventors , Jews , Journalists , the LBGT Community , Mothers , Musicians , Politicians , Scientists , Supreme Court Justices , Theologians , and Visionaries and Eccentrics . I urge you to join us for a tour in the near future , continuing the legacy of these outstanding individuals .