Niagara Gazette — Those who want to get a jump on the Garden Walk Saturday can enjoy several events at the Oakwood Cemetery, including a tour by a master gardener, which starts an hour before the official walk begins.
Gardens throughout the Main Street area are expected to be open to the public at 10 a.m., but Oakwood, at 763 Portage Road, will begin the day at 9 a.m. with a tour of the trees in Oakwood, led by master gardener John Farfaglia of Cornell Cooperative Extension.
“I’ve been doing this for a few years,” said Farfaglia, noting that the cemetery has a wide variety of mature trees to discuss. “Sometimes the best tree collections are found in cemeteries,” he added, “because people plant trees in remembrance.”
As many garden walkers begin touring the gardens on streets around lower Main Street — including Fourth Street and Park Place to Orchard Parkway and Pierce Avenue — the cemetery staff and volunteers will continue at 10 a.m. with a non-gardening event: a medal presentation to the heroic soldier, Sgt. Leroy Williams, who volunteered to lead four others into enemy fire during a bloody Civil War battle and retrieve the dead body of Peter A. Porter.
A museum quality replica of the Medal of Honor, which was awarded to Williams, will be presented by Warren Baltes, archivist at the Connecticut Street Armory in Buffalo, who found and purchased the replica online with the intention of presenting it to the cemetery.
During a battle in Cold Harbor, Va., where 80,000 were killed, Porter had been hit by a sharpshooter, and Williams was said to have led his men just a few feet away from rebels fighters to retrieve Porter’s body.
Peter A. Porter was the son of Peter B. Porter, a prominent city elder and major general who was a hero in the War of 1812. Both Porters are buried in a Porter family site near Williams’ grave.
Baltes, who last year presented the cemetery with a museum quality replica of a Congressional Gold Medal given to Peter Buell Porter for his heroism in the War of 1812. Baltes pays for the medals out of his own pocket and donates them because he’s a fan of the history-rich Oakwood. “I’ve become kind of enamored with the staff there and how they keep things up and how they preserve the history,” he said.
“Here’s the thing that curious,” added Baltes of the soldier, Sgt. Leroy Williams. “He wasn’t born in Niagara Falls but the story goes that his dying wish was to buried as close to his colonel as possible.” (The full story is on the cemetery website: myoakwoodcemetery.com)
The Oakwood events will conclude at 11 a.m. with a tour of the grave sites of those for whom many city streets are named. That tour will conclude about noon and allow attendees plenty of time to see more of the participating gardens in the area of lower Main Street. Although details were still being finalized for the walk on Thursday, the event typically includes a temporary set-up on Main Street where maps of participating gardens are available. The garden walk is free, as is the cemetery.
As the Main Street Business and Professional Association members wrap up the garden walk at 5 p.m., staff and volunteers at the non-profit cemetery will begin gearing up for a major fundraiser being planned for 6 p.m. Aug. 3, celebrating 100 years of the E.B. Green mausoleum, called “The Angels of Oakwood Fundraiser.”
That event will include a guided trolley tour, a catered wine and hors d’oeuvre reception inside the mausoleum, then a re-dedication of the mausoleum, and an al fresco, tented diner at sunset, catered by the Catering Crew from Carolyn’s House, operated by the YWCA of Niagara. The residence for women is named for Carolyn Van Schiak, who is buried at the cemetery.
GARDEN WALKING • WHAT: The Historic Niagara Falls Garden Walk, sponsored by the Main Street Business and Professional Association • WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday (with 9 a.m. start at Oakwood Cemetery) • WHERE: Main Street core, and the neighborhoods from Fourth Street and Park Place to Orchard Parkway and Pierce Avenue, ending with a tour of the planned native garden at the Niagara Falls Library and events at Oakwood Cemetery. • FOR MORE INFO: For more information on the Garden Walk search "MSBPA Historic Niagara Falls Garden Walk" on Facebook. For more information on the cemetery events visit www.myoakwoodcemetery.com