In Memoriam: June Westphal, 1938 - 2023

June Westphal was one of the rarest of Eurekans: a native.

When she was born in 1938, Louis Freund had his eye on a decaying Hatchet Hall for a new art school, the Crescent Hotel was Norman Baker’s sham cancer hospital, and future newspaper columnist Virginia Tyler was – um, managing an antique store.

June passed away last month at the age of 85. I didn’t know her personally, but she wrote two of the most important histories of Eureka Springs. 1971’s A Fame Not Forgotten with Catherine Osterhage and 2012’s Eureka Springs: City of Healing Waters with Kate Cooper introduced many – myself included – to the town’s colorful past.

The same year she wrote Fame, June helped found the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, helping preserve materials that were in danger of becoming lost to time.

Often, June played a role behind the scenes in preserving the city’s history.

She chose the residents whose stories were told in the hugely popular Voices from the Silent City tour. Each year near Halloween, living history re-enactors tell the story of the people they portray, while standing near their graves in the local cemetery.

As I’ll mention in my book, it is officially Eureka Springs Cemetery, but locals call it by the name of the fraternal group who once maintained it: Odd Fellows.

I am sure this year’s event will be bittersweet for those putting it on. I am equally sure – whether it’s this year or many years down the line – June will reappear at Odd Fellows some Halloween, telling her own story for a change. I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute.

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