La Vie de Ville: Runners enjoy historic Metairie Cemetery

Advocate photo by ROBERTA GROVE -- Runners are off on the 5K race supporting the Save Our Cemeteries organization. More than 600 entrants participated.
Advocate photo by ROBERTA GROVE -- Runners are off on the 5K race supporting the Save Our Cemeteries organization. More than 600 entrants participated.

SAVING GRACE

By Roberta Grove

Special to The Advocate

The 10th annual 1-mile, 5K run/walk through historic Metairie Cemetery attracted more than 800 entrants this year, but at first the weather didn’t cooperate.

Forced to postpone the event to the last Sunday morning of Jazz Fest, organizers were pleased that more than 600 runners still turned out to compete in a variety of different categories with proceeds targeted for Save Our Cemeteries.

The nonprofit national organization fosters public appreciation and support for preserving our cultural and architectural history through the preservation of our cemeteries.

“This event is very much a community and family event by design,” said key organizer Gerald Schoen, community outreach director for Stewart Enterprises Inc.

“This is one of our favorite events of the year because it has nothing to do with grief. It’s a celebration, and cemeteries are really for the living.”

Schoen explained that the idea for the event came to him more than 10 years ago on a fly-over of the grounds of Metairie Cemetery.

I learned from him that this hallowed and sacred ground was once the home of Metairie Race Track. Only in New Orleans could a racetrack that’s not even in Metairie become “Metairie Cemetery.”

Because of the lay of the landscape, it was the perfect place to host a running event, Schoen thought. With one phone call to Chuck George of Nola Running, this unique event was on the calendar.

Today, it has grown into one of the most popular, family-friendly events where athletes of all ages can run past the final resting places of famous New Orleanians like “Diamond” Jim Moran, Louis Prima, Al Copeland and Ruth Fertel. There’s literally a celebrity around every turn in the course.

The top finishers in the race were Ian Carr, first place; Fitz Williams, second; and Harry Wiggins, third in the Men’s Division.

For the ladies, it was Angela King crossing the finish line first, followed by Alisha Marshall, second, and Kathleen Welch in third place.

Drew Thompson, of Albany, finished 19th overall in the Men’s Division.

Then there were the walkers who just enjoying the setting on picture perfect Sunday morning.

I know what I’ll be doing about the same time next year: participating with friends in this great event.

To learn more about how you can do your part to Save Our Cemeteries, visit http://www.saveourcemeteries.org.

For those wishing to celebrate our past musically, mark your calendars and plan to spend Sunday afternoon, June 9 at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home for a special tribute concert to the great Pete Fountain by clarinetist Tim Laughlin and his trio.

The performance starts at 3 p.m. in the East Chapel. For concert details, visit http://www.LakeLawnMetairie.com.

La Vie de Ville captures city life New Orleans style every Thursday in The Advocate New Orleans Community News Section. Send details of your event in advance to robertagrove@hotmail.com.