John Juchem. I bet you’ve never heard of him. Unless, of course, you have lived in Arvada for a number of years, or attended the tenth Arvada Cemetery Tour, sponsored by Arvada Historical Society.
I was in the first one, in 2004, portraying Benjamin Franklin Wadsworth, one of the founders of Arvada. I’ve performed that character many times since. This year, I developed an entirely new persona, John Juchem, pioneer gardener.
First of all you need to know that it’s pronounced Yoakum. We always know when people are not from around here, because they say JOO kum, or even YOO kem. But locals know it’s YOAkum. He was born in Prussia in 1831 and came to Arvada thirty years later. And his passion was gardening. He made that passion into one of the most successful farms in Jefferson County, over 400 acres, with four major ditches, a wonderful wife and five children, and a legacy that lasts to this very day.
I took a chance on this one. I did Juchem in a German accent. I’ve never done fifteen full minutes in a German accent before, but it came off fairly well. I know I slipped a few times, but the audience didn’t seem to notice. One family said they swore I was actually German, until they spoke with me afterward. That makes me feel good about pushing the envelope.
Arvada Cemetery Tour happens every year in the last weekend of September. I hope to be involved many more times. I will post the text of John Juchem’s story here soon, and I hope, a video of the performance. Stay tuned.