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Back from the dead

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The actual folks will be underfoot (the better to make contact) when impersonators tell their stories during the tenth annual Forest Home Cemetery Walk this weekend. Ten of the graveyard's most famous residents will speak--through interpreters--during the two-hour tour of this popular final resting spot, the first high ground west of the city. Among them: labor organizer and publisher Oscar Neebe, the only one of the Haymarket Eight to escape a death sentence. In 1886 Neebe got 15 years' hard labor for "conspiring against the police" in a trial that took place in an atmosphere of threat and panic that's newly relevant. He served seven years before being pardoned by Governor John Altgeld; after that he went on the lecture circuit. Librarian Doug Duechler, who will take Neebe's part, is getting in character by studying the activist's articles and speeches. Neebe died of natural causes and was buried at Forest Home in 1916; his neighbors there include a clutch of other Haymarket victims as well as baseball player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday, modern dance pioneer Doris Humphrey, and Oak Park's oddball bicyclist and photodocumentarian Philander Barclay. The program has a special focus on Oak Park history for that town's centennial year. It's produced by the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest and sponsored by the Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home. Tours begin at 1 and leave at ten-minute intervals until 2 on Sunday, October 21. (Rain date: October 28.) The cemetery is located at 863 Desplaines Avenue in Forest Park; tickets are $8. Call 708-848-6755 for more information.

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