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Cemetery Walk's focus is on athletes this year

Seems hard to believe we've been doing the annual Oakwood Cemetery Walk for 13 years, always an opening event of Rochesterfest week. This year's walk, presented by the Olmsted County History Center and Oakwood Cemeteries, is scheduled just a month from now, June 19, with guided tours between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Oakwood is centrally located in Rochester.

Again this year, as they have since 1998, local actors will portray the lives of six Rochester residents, all associated with sports at some level. The six being honored all lived full lives, with two reaching the age of 88. They were Carlton D. Grassle and Arthur J. Osman.

Rochester has a long history of sports championship teams.

Hester Crow Smith was a member of the girls basketball team. She lived from 1894 to 1966 and filled her 72 years with community involvement as a member of the Midway Club, White Shrine and American Legion Auxiliary. Hester's husband, Percy Smith, was a pharmacist and well known musician.

Many of us remember "Mr. Hockey," Dr. Joseph Janes, a kind and gentle man to all. He was an internationally noted orthopedic surgeon with Mayo Clinic. Seems he attended so many games as the "team doctor."


Likely he was best known in sporting circles as one of the key people who brought organized hockey to Rochester. He was one of the founders of Rochester's semi-pro Mustangs hockey team. And we've had great hockey here for more than 60 years.

In the 1917 state basketball tournament, there were two "Carltons" on the Rochester team — Charlton W. Kruse and Carlton D. Grassle. Kruse acted as team captain and also played basketball with the Original Aces. Kruse later opened the Kruse Insurance Agency.

Grassle became associated with his family's business, the Carlton Hotel, owned by his father, Charles O. Grassle. After his father's death in 1941, he became part owner of the hotel with his mother. The two boys named Carlton helped bring the state championship trophy to Rochester.

A unique gift to the city of Rochester was given by Frank E. Williams. He'll be honored on the Cemetery Walk for his generosity in giving a building at First Avenue and Third Street Southwest called the F.E. Williams Building. It was willed to the city in 1932 for the purpose of establishing a trust fund to provide playgrounds and playground equipment for children younger than 12.

Dating back to 1939, the same year Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo died, two businessmen opened a sporting goods store that became the largest exclusive sporting goods store in southern Minnesota. Arthur J. Osman and his partner, J.R. Orcutt, opened the O and O Sporting Goods Store and will be one of the stories told on the Cemetery Walk. The store was perfectly named and opened the same year Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees visited Rochester. Osman was an organizer and manager of semi-professional baseball and hockey teams in Rochester.

Advance-sale adult tickets for the walk are $6, just $3 for children younger than 12. Tickets are $1 more at the cemetery gate on the day of the event, but if you're wearing your Rochesterfest button, you'll save $1 off the gate price. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester; the phone number is 282-9447.

If you've attended past Oakwood Cemetery Walks, you've shared Rochester's history from the actors standing at the grave sites of those honored. For newcomers, it's a wonderful way to catch the "history spirit" of Rochester.

Next week: Our monthly look at the Olmsted County Fair's 150 years.

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