Volunteer Voices: Getting to Know Oakland Volunteers Joan Fountain and Al Stephens

Oakland Cemetery relies on the incredible energy, dedication, and generosity of over two hundred volunteers. Working in the gardens, giving tours, staffing the Visitor Center, or giving countless hours at special and private events, Oakland volunteers never fail to amaze with their passion and commitment. We’ve asked some of Oakland’s volunteers to share their stories of how they became involved as Oakland volunteers and their experiences here.

Meet brother and sister volunteer team Joan Fountain and Al Stephens

Tell us a little bit about yourselves:

From left: Joan Fountain, Al Stephens, and wife Diana.

Al Stephens: My sister Joan and I grew up in Candler Park, living with our older sister, mother and grandparents. My wife Diana and I have two daughters and five grandchildren. We lost our son Daniel in 2007.

Joan Fountain: I have been married to my husband Andy for 45 years. We are blessed with three amazing children, an extraordinary daughter-in-law and four remarkable grandchildren. For the past 35 years I have been a Certified Registered Nurse (RN) in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Atlanta Medical Center. I am a certified preceptor for students and new employees, and teach classes for Neonatal Resuscitation and Stabilization.

How did you get involved in volunteering at Oakland?
JF: My big brother Al had been a tour guide at Oakland for several years, and had suggested that I, too, might enjoy doing the same. In 2008, I did just that. We grew up in Candler Park, and Al had biked through Oakland in his youth (long, long ago!) I had only visited once.

AS: I began coming here while growing up and rode my bicycle here. Over the years, I continued visiting, and one day saw a tour being given. I volunteered to do that and have been ever since. I fell in love with Oakland while growing up. I love the artistry of the monuments, the history here and the opportunity to share my interest with others. I give the “Sights, Symbols and Stories” overview tour, “Oakland and the Civil War,” and the “Malts and Vaults of Oakland” beer tours. I also work in the Visitors Center & Museum Shop, and am an actor during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours, and volunteer at other special events.

Al Stephens in character during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours

What do you like most about volunteering at Oakland?
JF: How much time do you have for an answer?! History, exquisite statuary and flora, being an ambassador for Oakland to people from all over the world. Our Oakland volunteer family is diverse, but every person in it is friendly and caring. We have grown so much; my “graduating class” of volunteers in 2008 had only about a dozen members. I enjoy myself immensely working in the Visitor’s Center & Museum Shop, at special events, and giving a few tours and learning new facts about Oakland and the residents. Visitors tell about their family members; other volunteers research and share their knowledge; and we learn new material with each new tour. I have accumulated a vast library of books at home on Atlanta and cemeteries. My very first purchases on eBay were volumes one and two of Franklin Garrett’s Atlanta and Environs.

AS: Interacting with those interested in learning about what’s here, being with the good friends who volunteer here, and sharing my common interest with Joan, who in addition to being a wonderful tour guide and volunteer, is one of the finest people I know.

What is your favorite Oakland experience/moment?
AS: Meeting descendants of those who are on the tours. I have met and talked with the Ivy family, related to Hardy and Sarah Todd Ivy and relatives of Dr. Noel D’Alvigny to name a few. The Ivys told me where they thought Hardy is buried, and I was able to give the D’Alvigny descendants information that they didn’t know.

JF: During and after the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours. Walking in the moonlight in Oakland is sublime!

If you are interested in volunteering at Historic Oakland Cemetery, want to be considered for our January 2018 new volunteer orientation, or want to know more about what our volunteers do, please e-mail Richard Harker, Director of Special Events and Volunteers, rharker@oaklandcemetery.com or call 404-688-2107.