Fall 2023

Top Story:

Soul Strolls: Tragic Lives and Demise

Annnnnd fin! Soul Strolls 2023 is a wrap and the event was a smashing October success. Over 1600 people attended Soul Strolls this year and, thanks to your efforts, we generated over eighty-thousand dollars to benefit our non-profit mission, a new revenue record for the event!

But Soul Strolls is about so much more than fundraising; It's about you and our community! When I think of Soul Strolls, I think about family, friends, and neighbors gathering with smiles on their faces as they meet their tour guide. I think about folks walking into the chapel and enjoying a cocktail together. I think about children excited to learn about history. I think of the emotions that go through visitors as they watch vignette performances from our talented actors.

But most of all, I think about the memory and legacy of those interred here and those who we chose to interpret. Thanks to your efforts, the lives of six incredible individuals were showcased to the public. Their extraordinary strength in the face of tragedy is simply incredible and I was so excited to help bring them back to life, even if just for 4 evenings, as a testament to them and their stories. When I say Soul Strolls is about our community and neighbors, I mean our interred residents too. So when I say thank you for all of your efforts, I hope in a sense I am passing on the thanks of them too. These were real people, with real lives, triumphs, and tragedies. And in showing their strength, it is my solemn and heartfelt hope that we honored them.

I am so incredibly and immensely grateful for all of our amazing volunteers who worked the event. Soul Strolls is a human symphony with so many different moving parts and roles. And there is absolutely no way we could pull if off without you all and your efforts to bring these stories to the public. Whether you worked the registration table, helped set up/clean up, assisted at the bar, were an actor runner, or one of our intrepid guides, or anything in between, thank you, thank you, thank you!

But, as always, I'm reserving a very special thank you to our main cast, who truly embodied our interred residents. They worked extremely hard, volunteering their team to memorize scripts, assist in the writing process, attending rehearsals and costume fittings, and doing a human endurance challenge to execute over 30 performances in a single weekend! I'm so wowed by them and please join me in congratulating and thanking them:

  • John Wells
  • Sally Cusenza
  • Dawn Kopecki
  • Kate Smyth-Haskins
  • Morgan Byrne
  • Zoe McDermott-Adler
  • Linda Lenrow Lopez

A.J. Orlikoff

Director of Public Engagement

See more photos here!

A Reminder About the Volunteer Newsletter

Dear Devoted Volunteers,

After a year of Monthly Columbarium Newsletters, we have decided to recalibrate how we share news, celebrate accomplishments, and express our gratitude. Instead of bombarding inboxes with constant monthly updates, we have moved to a quarterly release schedule for the newsletter in order to more efficiently and effectively communicate with you all. Rest assured that communicating with you all remains a high priority for us, we simply believe that a quarterly release schedule creates a greater impact while simultaneously facilitating more effective communication.

What does this mean in a practical sense?

  • The Volunteer Newsletter will now release in a quarterly schedule to coincide with the season and our operations: Summer edition= July Fall edition= October (Yes I know this one is a little late!) Winter edition= January, Spring edition= April

  • We will still be sending volunteer opportunities directly for the grounds, adopt a plot, special events, docent tours, and everything in between.

  • The content of the newsletter is remaining the same. This will still be a space for celebration, recognition, and news.

Thank you and let us know if you have any questions.


A.J. Orlikoff

Director of Public Engagement

A Note from the President

Dear Volunteers-

We simply cannot say thank you enough for all the ways you have shown up for us this busy season- as actors, event support, 5K race assistants, gardeners, clean up crew, and more. Your time is valuable and we are so thankful that you choose to spend some of it helping us meet our mission to preserve, promote, and protect this treasured site.

As we head out of the fryer and into the frying pan towards the end of this fiscal year, I simply want to remind you that we appreciate all you do. Thank you.

Yours in Service,

Jackie Spainhour


Yours in Service,

Jackie Spainhour


Volunteer Handbook

Dear Volunteers,

I kept the volunteer handbook information in the newsletter in case anyone needs it!

The handbook includes information about our volunteer policies, rules, procedures, and more. If you have not received it already, please download it and take a look using the button below.

You may send an electronic copy of the signed acknowledgment form (last page of the handbook) to our Front Office Manager, Antonio Coghill OR you may provide a paper copy via mail or drop it off in person during our office hours.

There is no hard deadline for the return of the form but you must provide a signed form to volunteer at Congressional Cemetery.

Thank you for your hard work and dedication and let us know if you have any questions!

Download the handbook here!
Email Antonio here!
Submit hours here!

The Army Historical Foundation Visit Congressional Cemetery!

Earlier this year, Director of Public Engagement A.J. Orlikoff welcomed Kathleen Lugarich from the Army Historical Foundation to film an episode of their Army Artifacts series focused on Chief Pushmataha of the Choctaw Nation, one of Congressional Cemetery's notable interred residents.

You can watch the episode for yourself using the link below!

Watch it here!

Dead Man's Run 5k at Congressional

Every October, Congressional Cemetery becomes the spookiest 5k venue in town! This year, hundreds of runners participated in our annual haunted fun run! Despite a bit of rain, ghouls, ghosts, skeletons, and witches took over the cemetery for Halloween fun.

Dead Man's Run would have been impossible to pull off without the tireless efforts of our amazing volunteers. 22 volunteers contributed over 58 volunteers hours. Whether you worked the registration table, the water stop, as a costumed "Haunter," or simply helped clean up, we greatly appreciate it. You all are simply the best and we can't wait for next year.

The John Philip Sousa Concert

Upcoming Events:

  • November 6: J. Philip Sousa Birthday Concert

  • November 9: Celebrating the Legacy of HCC

  • November 14-15: Tombs & Tomes Book Club

  • November 16: Last Ecstatic Days Documentary Screening + Panel Discussion

  • November 18: Cemetery Speaker Series: Infectious Disease in World History

  • December 3: Holiday Market

  • December 10: Worldwide Candle Lighting

  • December 12: Death Cafe

  • December: Notes From the Crypt

Death Doula Days: We're Back!!

Death Doula Days has returned for the final stretch of the year! Meeting on Saturdays in the Gatehouse, hundreds of people have attended Death Doula Days and engaged with a variety of death positive activities, programs, and guests.

If you haven't checked out Death Doula Days with our Death Doula in Residence, Laura Lyster-Mensh, we encourage you to do so!

Everyone is welcome for tea, cake, and death positive company, conversation, and education. Learn more below!

A HUGE THANK YOU to Laura for her indispensable volunteerism, devoting so much of her time to furthering our death positive vision!

Death Doula Days and other Death Positive Programs!
Laura featured on Ali Wentworth's Podcast!
RSVP Here!

The {Shovel} Scoop

Adopt-a-Plot Program

Four plots were adopted in Fall so far, and we still have plenty of space for new gardeners! 101 plots are currently maintained by 68 gardeners. Thank you so much for your effort to make Congressional so beautiful!

We hope everyone enjoyed the native plant plugs gifted last month. We are awaiting the arrival of tulip bulbs, so please be on the lookout for an email about pick-up!

If you are interested, please fill out the Adopt-a-Plot Interest Form to help us find plots that will fit with your needs - sun exposure, gardening knowledge, amount of time available, commitment level, etc.

DC Strings Returns to Congressional

We were so delighted to welcome back DC Strings for another concert in September! This time, the Chris Hon Quartet performed an amazing Jazz concert in the chapel for dozens of attendees. Musical programming continues in 2023 and beyond!

Learn more here!

Ben Wasserman: Live After Death

We were excited to welcome comedian Ben Wasserman to Congressional Cemetery for a performance of his hit show "Live After Death." A packed audience laughed and cried along with Ben in this amazing and artistic death positive extravaganza. We look forward to inviting Ben back next year!

Docent Education and Dialogue (DEAD)

In this component of the newsletter, we highlight the indispensable contributions of our "Dozen Decent Docents" to Historic Congressional Cemetery. 

Docent Highlight: Charles Walton

Docent Charles Walton has been a stalwart contributor to the Dozen Decent Docents since I've arrived. He is an expert docent who knows the interred residents of HCC like someone would their next door neighbors, which is appropriate given that Charles will be spending eternity as their neighbor in the Lockwood Columbarium! And while Charles is a brilliant, passionate, and dedicated docent, more importantly he is a great guy who's kindness lights up the room when he walks in.

This year, Charles has led tours of all kinds. Introductory tours, special topic tours, private group tours, Soul Strolls, and in the Cemetery Speaker Series. He was also an invaluable asset for his assistance with the June Speaker Series, helping develop a thematic tour on the Black and LGBTQ+ residents of the cemetery.

Charles is amazing and please join me in thanking him for his efforts!

Docent Tour season is approaching it's end and WOW September and October were very busy with scheduled group tours. Seemingly every kind of group imaginable wanted to visit the Cemetery this year and I'm so thankful for all of your efforts in stepping up to handle the volume during an extremely busy time of year for me! (15 tours, not counting Soul Strolls, in October alone!)

A few other notes:

  • We have several thematic tours coming up to round out the tour season! Be sure to come out to see the upcoming Cemetery Speaker Series later this month (Docents attend for free!)

  • Remember when you are shadowing tours, use the code DOCENT to attend a tour for free!

  • Please note we have our annual Volunteer Celebration scheduled for December 8 (see above for details). Hope to see you there!

  • I'm fielding ideas for more Docent Field Trips in 2024. If you have a fun idea or any feedback on Docent Field Trips, please shoot me an email!

  • I will be conducting new docent interpretation training is February 2024. All are welcome!

  • Similar to last year, I will be holding a Docent Advisory Committee Zoom call in January to discuss 2024 tours and educational programming. I'll be reaching out to a few of your individually but if you would like to be included in this meeting, please let me know! All docents are welcome.

A.J. Orlikoff

Director of Public Engagement

HCC Staff and Docents on a trip to Ford's Theatre!

Cheers to our Docents!

HCC would like to thank the following docents for their efforts and volunteerism from Mid July-October 31 2023. I'd also like to extend a special thanks to every docent who assisted with Soul Strolls!

  • Barbara Borman
  • Charles Bowery
  • Lynne Boyle
  • Catherine Collins
  • Kurt Deion
  • Susan Kilgard
  • Ann Korzeniewski
  • Elizabeth Latham
  • Rick Liebling
  • Sid Neely
  • Randy Norton
  • Robert Pohl
  • Jeff Rollins
  • Nick Rutar
  • Kirsten Sloan
  • Kennedy Simpson
  • Jeff Trinca
  • Charles Walton
Sign up to give tours here!

Learn more here!

Do you like Congressional Cemetery's events? If so, we have just the thing for you. Here just in time for spring, see our virtual store page to order NEW event shirts for Gentleman's Gambit, Death Doula Days, and the Cemetery Speaker Series. We also have merch available for Cinematery, Soul Strolls, and other selections from our classic lineup of events.

Purchase your event swag here!

This edition, we continue our "Get to Know to the Team" staff series but this time we interviewed our new Visitor Service Associate Team Members, Kennedy Simpson and Kurt Deion!

We will be changing up the format of this "Get to Know the Team" space so let us know what questions you would like to ask the staff!

What is your favorite food? 

KS: My favorite food is Apple Pie— I will physically fight anyone for it. I prefer it more tart than sweet!

KD: I am going to be a scofflaw and go with my favorite meal: a wiener special from Olneyville New York System on Plainfield Street in Providence. The special includes two hot wieners (they are NOT hot dogs), french fries, and a drink. The Rhode Island beverage to order is a coffee milk (think chocolate milk, but coffee syrup instead). And I get my hot wieners "all the way," with mustard, onions, celery salt, and meat sauce

What is your favorite movie?

KS: I have far too many movies I count among my favorites, so I'll pick Spirited Away, as it's the movie that had the most effect on me as a kid

KD: My favorite movie is 2022's The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves. Robert Pattinson is the best live-action Caped Crusader in my opinion; Michael Giacchino's score is powerful; and cinematographer Greig Frasier — who was snubbed during awards season — deserved an Oscar

What is your favorite part of HCC?

KS: My favorite thing about HCC is the community! We can't do what we do without the support of our fellow staff, our volunteers, or our supporters! Everyone I've met has been so wonderful and kind— we really have something special

KD: My favorite part about HCC is that it is a place for the dead and the living; a place to learn and interpret history, a place to reflect and mourn, and a place to have new experiences and be part of a community. Giving Snooks ice cubes is a close second

What is the nerdiest thing you have ever done?

KS: The nerdiest thing I've ever done— I've done a crazy amount of nerdy things, from doing an hour long presentation on a Japanese monster to crying over a video game, but I think what takes the cake is the time I went to the grand opening of the Pokemon Center Store at Sunshine City in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. I waited in line for four hours to be among the first people in. Alone. With a fever— or maybe heat sickness from all the people. All for a single promo card that I can no longer find. RIP Pikachu on a Charizard card

KD: In August 2015 I was interviewed by C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb on the show Q&A about my website, KurtsHistoricSites.com. Then again, a stranger who recognized me during senior year of college told me that the interview was "dope."

Photos of the Season

Do you love taking photos of the cemetery? If so, this space is for you! Each month, we will select photos selected by our staff and volunteers as our Photos of the Season!

 Send your submissions to [email protected]

Fall 2023 Submissions

Submitted by Kitty Linton

Submitted by A.J. Orlikoff

Submitted by Sarah La Rocca

Submitted by Kitty Linton

Submitted by Kennedy Simpson

Do you love the Volunteer Newsletter? Loathe it? Something in between? Have a suggestion, comment, or some other type of feedback? Whatever you think of the newsletter, we want to hear from you. Send your feedback to [email protected]