“Dearly Departed”

Niles Weborg portrays Ole Larsen during the 2011 “Dearly Departed” cemetery walk. Photo courtesy of the Ephraim Historical Foundation.

What would an individual from Door County’s history tell you if they were able to come back for an afternoon? Members of the Ephraim Moravian Church and Ephraim Historical Foundation have created a program that will help you answer that question for seven people from Ephraim’s past.

“There are so many stories to be told and so many characters, and this is a way we can be good storytellers and good stewards of the stories,” said Kevin Free, Program and Marketing Director at the Ephraim Historical Foundation. Free continued, “What’s really cool is the connections of the family members and relatives and there will likely be relatives of portrayed persons in the audience.”

After careful consideration the seven people selected to be portrayed at this year’s “Dearly Departed” cemetery walk include Greta Anderson, Hilda Paschke, Lorenz Heise, Kay Wilson, Maury Larson, Helen Sohns, and Hans Jorgan Amundson. Each person played a unique role in Ephraim’s ongoing story. Heise and Wilson were involved in the creation of Peninsula Music Festival and Anderson was an early settler in the beginning of Ephraim’s History. Sohns was a teacher in the one-room school and helped spearhead the start of the Ephraim Historical Foundation – although she couldn’t sign the documents because she was a woman so her husband had to sign them. She also started the first Ephraim History Walk with Dorothy Halvorson.

Sohns will be portrayed by her daughter Karen Ekberg. “I have been [portraying my mom] the last several years at the school house,” said Ekberg. “My children say I sound just like nana. I look in the mirror and I look like her. I say ‘I’m becoming my mother!’” Although Ekberg tells the story of her mother in the one-room school, during this program she will speak more about her mother’s adult years, like Sohns’ role as a roving reporter for the Ephraim Moravian Church Newspaper and her part in helping rural children save their pennies to donate to the Junior Historical Society for the Nicolet statue that is currently located in Wequiock Falls Park just north of Green Bay.

A lot of research goes into each person, then scripts are written and the portrayers work it into a dialog. Ekberg will tell her mother’s story straight from her mother’s memoirs. Other portrayals will be presented based on family accounts, records and letters, photos, and through historical research.

“I’m kind of sad it’s only one day, but that makes it special,” said Free.

The “Dearly Departed” program will be held at the Ephraim Moravian Church Cemetery on Sept. 19 at 1 pm with a rain date scheduled for September 20 at 1 pm. Bring your own chair and a donation if you wish. Shuttles will be provided to the cemetery from the Ephraim Moravian Church, Bethany Lutheran Church, and behind the Ephraim Fire Station on Norway Street. For more information call 920.854.9688 or visit