Oak Creek historian recalls comical, tragic stories during centennial tour

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Some of the oldest tombstones in the cemetery are from the early 1900s.

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Mike Yurich, of the Historical Society of Oak Creek, tells one of the many stories he knows about the people who are buried at the Oak Creek Cemetary. Yurich is offering tours of the cemetery at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

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Oak Creek Cemetery

Mike Yurich, with the Oak Creek Historical Society, tells one of his favorite stories about the cemetery.

Mike Yurich, with the Oak Creek Historical Society, tells one of his favorite stories about the cemetery.

— Oak Creek resident Rosie Hudack died in 1943 after living a full life and spending a lot of time at the Oak Creek Cemetery mourning a deceased boyfriend.

Hudack, who was one of dozens of transplanted ethnic minorities living in Oak Creek during the town's heyday, enjoyed spending time with Mike Yurich's mother, Rose.

Yurich - a longtime Oak Creek resident and historian - recounted some of his favorite stories about the people buried in the cemetery, including Rosie Hudack.

"She always liked her wine," he said. "She'd always come over to visit with my mother and drink our homemade wine, hoping she'd be done before my father got home. Well, one day there was this young boy digging a grave at the cemetery and he kept hearing this moaning. He looked around, and when he didn't see anyone around he ran into town. Well, it turns out it was just Mrs. Hudack behind a gravestone, drunk. The boy never did finish the grave."

Stories like that are what keep people alive, Yurich said.

"All cemeteries have stories," he said. "You exist as long as someone recalls your name. When people cease to say your name, you cease to exist. I've always felt that talking about these people and remembering them keeps them alive."

Yurich is offering tours of the Oak Creek Cemetery as part of the town's centennial celebration. Several of the town's founders, including Sam and Ed Bell, are buried at the cemetery.

"There are a lot of sad, tragic stories here, but there's a lot of good stories here, too," he said. "I can tell you a story about two-thirds of the people buried here."

There are more than 1,000 people from all walks of life buried in the 2 1/2-acre cemetery located adjacent to Soroco High School.

Yurich's relationship with the cemetery began when his father, Frank Yurich, passed away in 1947. Yurich's younger brother, who died at age 3, also is buried at the cemetery. His mother would walk Yurich to the cemetery to visit them and tend to some of the graves. During their trips, Rose Yurich would share stories about the people buried there.

"As a boy, I'd bring my books here to read," he said. "I still come up here about two or three times a week to meditate."

While he was teaching elementary school in Yampa, Yurich used to bring his class to the Yampa Cemetery for lessons.

"We'd look at the inscriptions on the headstones, all the different languages. We'd do the math to figure out how old someone was when they died, and for the art project they'd do rubbings," he said. "It was a good exercise."

Yurich said cemeteries all too often are thought of as frightening places.

"In our society, we make cemeteries a spooky place. We scare people with them and dare them to go in, but everywhere else the dead are celebrated," he said.

Yurich said he offers free tours of the cemetery by request, and is planning a larger tour at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Call 736-8245 for reservations.

- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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