On April 17, the WCC writing club went on a tour of O‘ahu Cemetery in Nu‘uanu.
Club adviser and WCC English instructor Susan St. John took the students to the cemetery to learn and write about the people buried there. The tour group consisted of club members and students from various language arts classes.
“We’ve been reading Spoon River Anthology, which talked about fictitious people and cemeteries,” St. John said. “So they will now be writing about real people. They are going to write an epitaph for one of the people that we learned about.”
The group was guided by Nanette Napoleon, a trustee of the cemetery and Hawai‘i’s leading expert on graveyards. Napoleon has been documenting and restoring graveyards in Hawai‘i for the last 32 years.
Napoleon shared her stories about the fascinating people buried in the cemetery. She talked about Titanic survivor Lucy Parish, U.S. sailors, Honolulu firefighters who died in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the murder of 10-year-old George Gill Jamieson of Punahou School and a ghost story about Duke Kahanamoku’s daughter.
“Nanette does an amazing job researching and telling the stories of the people buried in O‘ahu Cemetery,” St. John said. “Her tour gives us little snapshots of different time periods in Hawai‘i. People come away from the tour with a new appreciation of cemeteries. They often are curious about some of the stories and want to conduct their own research.”
St. John believes that the tour was an important way of showing how vital stories are to one’s understanding of history and culture.
“Cemeteries are more than just repositories for dead bodies and bones,” she said. “They are repositories for life stories and art and culture. Each tombstone represents a life and all the remarkable or ordinary things that this person did.”
The writing club was created last semester to provide students with an education in creative writing.
“I love writing, and I love working with Susan,” said Sabrina Hebb, chair of the writing club. “ … I wanted to try it. I always wanted to be in a club.”
Hebb said the main objective of the club is to bring more people into writing and to show different writing styles.
The O‘ahu Cemetery tour was the writing club’s fourth event. Other events included readings from Bamboo Ridge novelist Donald Carreira Ching and poet Christy Passion, a songwriting workshop with Ka‘ala Carmack and a writing workshop that used photographs for inspiration.
St. John said that all students are encouraged to join the club and that no experience is needed.
“We need people,” she said. “Our club is still very new.”
For more information about the WCC writing club, contact St. John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Leighland Tagawa, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter