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History comes alive at cemetery

Click here to see a slideshow of the tour.

Frederich Rimple accepted a job at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard sight-unseen. He and his German family, shortly after immigrating from what is now the Ukraine, lived in the U.S. midwest. Their pursuit of economic stability brought them, with four children, to what would eventually become Port Orchard.

Their 3-year-old son, Ernest, born in the heartland, had never seen such aquatic expanses as Puget Sound and, riding a ferry boat across the water in 1902 when they first arrived in the area, the youngster looked down at a man in a rowboat.

“What’s that man doing in a pig trough?” he asked his father.

Fast forward more than 100 years to last weekend.

Standing at Frederich and Anna Rimple’s gravestone, his grandchildren, Edith McKelvy, 70, of Bremerton and Ernest Rimple Jr., 67, of Malibu, Calif., told the story of how their family settled in South Kitsap and started a strawberry farm where Sidney Glen Elementary School now stands.

The farm stayed in the family for years, McKelvy and Rimple having worked on it when they were children.

Rimple and McKelvy were just two of many at the Knights of Pythias Cemetery on Saturday, recounting the stories of past residents of Kitsap County.

The Puget Sound Genealogical Society sponsored the event, collecting voluntary donations to support the society and the cemetery.

“It’s to get the interest up again for the history of the area and also for these people that were pioneers,” said Sandie Morrison, 64, member of the Genealogical Society and one of the event’s organizers.

The society took a walk through the cemetery and dug through history books to create the tour, determining who was there and what stories could be told. Some of those participating were volunteers, and some were descendants of the subjects.

The stories ranged from the Civil War to just after the turn of the century. The tour presented business owners, politicians, Confederate soldiers and pharmacists, each sharing their own portion of the area history, and periodically discussing the importance to caring for cemeteries.

Siblings Rimple and McKelvy, children of the Ernest who confused a boat with a feeding box, wore period clothes and displayed family pictures for the more than 100 visitors who trekked through the park.

Genealogical Society volunteers toured the groups through the park, where they met volunteers and family members impersonating South Kitsap figures like William Howe and John and Lorinda Gorst.

The event raised more than $300 for the group and the cemetery, and drew more than 100 people.

“We are so pleased with the turnout,” Morrison said toward the end of the event.

Rimple and McKelvy were proud to impersonate their grandparents, Frederich and Anna Rimple.

“If (my grandfather) were alive today, I would thank him for allowing me to become a citizen of the United States of America,” Rimple said.

They grew up on the same farm started by their grandfather, earning their keep through hard work. Every day after school, when other kids headed home to play, McKelvy and Rimple headed home to work.

Eventually, the family heading off into different parts of the world, the farm was replaced by Sidney Glen Elementary.

“We think it’s the finest family legacy for it to become a school for the kids,” McKelvy said.

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