Tombstones mark the pages of a community’s past. But it takes the living to preserve and celebrate that history and to honor the sacrifices and achievements of those who came before them.

The Yuma Museum Memorial Day Tour hopes to give voice to some of our town’s rich historical past with a walking tour to the graves of several notable military veterans and historical figures buried in the Yuma Cemetery. At each stop the stories of those individuals will be recounted. And some of that history might surprise even long-time residents of Yuma.

The tour will begin immediately after the VFW’s morning program, which is scheduled Monday, May 29, beginning at 10 a.m.

Organizers of the Yuma Museum Memorial Day Tour promise an educational and entertaining program and hope to make it an annual benefit through the sale of breakfast burritos and beverages beginning at 8 a.m., with a small lunch menu to follow.

The history of Yuma — indeed, the history of Colorado and the West — is well represented by individuals occupying the hallowed ground of our cemetery. Some graves date back to the 19th Century, in fact. There are several Civil War veterans buried in the Yuma Cemetery and one of them is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, the highest honor awarded to members of the U.S. military, which might explain why only 3,515 of those medals have been awarded by the president of the United States since 1861.

Born in France in 1833, George Shopp came to America in 1852. When the Civil War broke out, Shopp enlisted as a private in the 6th Pennsylvania Reserves and over the next four years seems to have participated in almost every major battle — from Bull Run to Gettysburg. Wounded at Antietam, Shopp returned to his regiment and saw action at the Battle of Five Forks under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman, where his exploits earned him the nation’s highest honor.

The Yuma Cemetery is also home to an Indian fighter. Born in 1845, Theodore Blackburn Cox fought for the North as part of the 12th Missouri Cavalry. During the Civil War, “Dorie,” as friends and family knew him, participated in numerous skirmishes below the Mason-Dixon Line. Four months after Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant, Dorie rode west as part of the Powder River Expedition, a military strike force designed to punish the Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne for depredations committed along the Bozeman Trail in 1866. A debilitating injury ended his military career and Dorie drifted through the frontier towns of Kansas and Nebraska for a time before finally settling down on a small homestead near Eckley.

The late Bob Wenger, one of Yuma’s decorated World War II veterans, will be among those honored and celebrated during the Yuma Museum Memorial Day Tour on May 29. (Courtesy Photo)

The tour will also visit the final resting place of a former Yuma resident who served with great distinction in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Only 20 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after Pearl Harbor, Robert “Bob” Wenger served with distinction in some of the most brutal battles in the South Pacific, including Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian. And, incredibly, he lived to tell the tale, returning to Yuma to farm and to raise a family.

The Yuma Museum Memorial Day Tour will also visit the graves of several community builders and share their stories, too, including the final resting place of a German aristocrat named Raimond von Horrum Schramm, who is widely considered the architect of downtown Yuma. Other planned stops on the tour will be a brief “doctor’s visit” to the gravesite of Dr. George and Mary Bilsborrow who are still remembered for their unfailing kindness and dedication to citizens of Yuma in the early 20th Century, especially during the height of the deadly 1918 influenza epidemic. And you will also learn about one of our town’s earliest schoolteachers, Viola May Abbott. The oldest daughter of John M. Abbott, Viola arrived in Yuma in 1886 and spent her entire life in rural public education.

The tour will begin sometime around 10:30 a.m. near the cemetery pavilion.

Sponsoring the breakfast and lunch menu this year are Dan and Jan Baucke of the Baucke Funeral Home of Yuma. The folks at Roy’s Country Fair located on East Highway 34 plan to provide golf carts for transportation inside the cemetery.