Meet Our Staff

Alexandria VA Cemetery Meet Our Staff

Jaclyn “Jackie” Spainhour serves as the President of the Cemetery.  She is a writer, researcher, nonprofit professional, and special needs mom. She is an alumnus of Old Dominion University and sits on the Board of Directors for the Victorian Society in America. Her first book, Gilded Age Norfolk, Virginia: Tidewater Wealth, Industry, and Propriety was published in 2015 by the History Press. She serves as the chair of the VSA Book Awards Committee and the copy editor for the VSA’s peer-reviewed journal Nineteenth Century. A life-long lover of historic places, she spent over a decade on staff and as the Director of the Hunter House Victorian Museum in Norfolk, Virginia. Her second book, Museums and Millennials: Engaging the Coveted Patron Generation, was published in October 2019 through the American Association of State and Local History. She has given numerous presentations on the local and national level and her third book, A History Lover’s Guide to Norfolk, was published in 2021. In her spare time, she uses her voice as an advocate for the creation of a more inclusive world for people living with autism and other disabilities in honor of her son Declan. Away from the cemetery, you can find her digging her nose into the worn-out pages of old books, sipping a latte at a corner café, or brewing a fresh pot of tea to pour into her extensive teacup collection. She never misses a good British drama and is a huge fan of the show Supernatural. She would love to chat with you about your wishes for the cemetery- especially if you would like to become a future resident!

Washington DC Cemetery Staff

Anthony “AJ” Orlikoff, Director of Programming, is a dedicated and passionate historian, educator, and writer. After graduating with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in History from Old Dominion University, A.J. worked at Hampton Roads Naval Museum as an Educator and at the National Museum of the United States Army as an Education Specialist- Lead before joining the staff at Historic Congressional Cemetery. He is the author of “The Navy’s City: Norfolk’s Military History” in A History Lover’s Guide to Norfolk and is a contributor to Washington History Magazine. He is extremely passionate and enthusiastic about all things history and is always eager to share the amazing stories of the past.  He specializes in American military history, with a particular focus on the American Civil War and World War II. He enjoys reading, sports, cups of black coffee, and is an avid Disc Golf player. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife Raven and his cats Reina and Ringo.

Alexandria Cemeteries VA Meet Our Staff

In 2012, fresh out of Savannah College of Art and Design Historic Preservation graduate program, Margaret Canilang started her journey at Congressional Cemetery, but her love for cemeteries was already well-developed.  She was fascinated with the conservation science in her classes, particularly the properties and characteristics of stone.  Even more specifically, slate.  And what better place to observe stone than in a cemetery?  She was so enthralled, she wrote her Master’s thesis, “The Cemetery as a Cultural Institution: Reforming Preservation Initiatives in Garden Cemeteries through Management, Conservation, Outreach, and Protection.  A very long paper recommending the implementation of museum practices to care for cemeteries.  When she first started at the cemetery, she managed tasks associated with an active cemetery – funerals, site sales – and helped with conservation any chance she was able.  When the Director of Conservation position opened in 2019, she jumped at the opportunity to conserve the site’s memorials.

Staff Washington DC Cemeteries

Lily Buerkle was once tasked with writing her own funeral as a freshman in college many years ago and took the assignment a little too far. By the end of it, she had interviewed every mortician in the small South Georgia town and created her dream funeral, which is now lost on a floppy disk somewhere. She knows it included a gospel choir singing graveside and being buried in the ’73 Cadillac she was driving at the time. Lily ignored signs from the universe for a good 20 years (a Meyer-Briggs style test said that Funeral Director would be the perfect career for her, and she scoffed at the results.) Somewhere after having her two girls (now 9 and 11) and her last fundraising gig (Lily prefers death to fundraising), she started to listen. Lily has been in funeral service for 7 years now and she can’t imagine doing anything else. She is a licensed mortician in DC, Maryland, and Virginia and is absolutely thrilled to be the new Director of Site Sales and Funerals at her hands-down favorite cemetery in town. Lily hopes to bring the focus back on death at this almost-too-fun cemetery. She loves doing community engagement through death education, hanging with her husband, Eric, and alley-cat, Sweetie, jogging in Rock Creek Park, and playing Would-You-Rather with her girls, Rose and Mae.

Alexandria VA Cemeteries Meet Our Staff

If you need a to find a lost tag, file a report, or just see a friendly face, Antonio Coghill, our K9 Liaison, has got you covered. An aspiring writer, Antonio has lived in DC all his life, and knows the ins and outs of our Nation’s Capital; in fact, his family has lived in DC do over 100 years, spanning 5 generations. After graduating from Livingstone College with a Bachelor’s in English, a cemetery was the last place he thought he’d end up, but after 4 years, there’s no place he’d rather be. He started as a ‘Gate Checker’, but after seeing his skills with speaking to K9 members and visitors alike, he was promoted to Front Office Manager, and recently he was anointed to our brand-new position of K9 Liaison, a direct link between the Historic Congressional Cemetery Office and our K9 Corps Program. In his time away from the cemetery, he enjoys comics, outing with his friends, and fiction writing.

Arlington County VA Cemetery Our Staff

Sarah La Rocca, Marketing and Events Coordinator, is an event manager and arts administrator from New York City. She has had roles in program development and special events with several arts organizations. She earned a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and was a National Endowment for the Humanities grant recipient to study Victorian art in London. She has also attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and the London College of Fashion. Sarah is passionate about the arts, history, and nature. She is honored to join the staff at the Historic Congressional Cemetery.

Arlington County VA Cemetery Our Staff

Leigh Pickering is our Horticulture and Grounds Manager. A passionate advocate for the natural world, Leigh is personally and professionally interested in landscape design, ecological restoration, environmental education/outreach and enhancement of traditionally maintained landscapes by incorporating more sustainable practices.

Leigh has extensive experience in the field of sustainability and ecological restoration. She has owned her own residential/commercial design and installation firm; taught Graduate level courses in landscape design and plant identification; managed a natives nursery; and engaged in a number of consulting and volunteer activities. Aside from her passion and commitment, Leigh’s core professional strength is her breadth of experience. This experience has prepared her to manage complex and evolving professional challenges. In addition, she has created a set of native plant flash cards and is familiar with the uses of herbs and essential oils. Leigh enjoys following political history and its historical context, including the history at Congressional Cemetery. She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her 3 cats Reina, Joe, and George.

Meet Staff Arlington County VA Cemeteries

Dayle Dooley’s initial introduction to HCC was in the early 1980s while doing genealogical research on her family. The staff member with the longest tenure, Dayle has been a docent since 2007 and since retirement in 2009 has been Congressional Cemetery’s part-time Archivist. Family members buried here include great-great grandparents starting in 1872 as well as her husband’s family beginning in 1858.

Arlington County VA Cemeteries Staff

Andrea McCants has been in charge of the Finances of Congressional Cemetery since July 2012, coming in once a week to handle the books. She enjoys running, the occasional glass of wine and spending time with her new granddaughter. Andrea and her husband live in Baltimore, MD.

Washington Cemeteries DC Staff

Kennedy Simpson is our Education Specialist. This smiley guardian of the gate is a recent graduate of the George Washington University Museum Education program— a historian with a passion for sharing knowledge and making learning about the past accessible to everyone. This passion extends to illuminating the lives of the dearly departed and participating in the Death Positivity movement, supporting the reclamation of the dying and grieving process by individuals and their loved ones. In their free time, they do research on their favorite subject: Japanese Folklore, hoping to write a book someday. This often happens with a cup of tea and their precious pup, Vincent Price by their side, quietly enjoying some lo-fi jazz and soft blankets as they read a book found in a strange corner of a used bookstore.

Washington Cemeteries DC Staff

Future resident Kurt Deion is our Education Specialist. Since the age of eight, this native Rhode Islander has traversed the USA to visit the final resting places of over 2,000 historical and pop culture figures. He earned a master’s degree in history and is the author of the book, Presidential Grave Hunter: One Kid’s Quest to Visit the Tombs of Every President and Vice President. In 2023 he was admitted as a member of the White House Historical Association’s Next-Gen Leaders cohort. Outside of presidents and cemeteries, his passions include Batman, the Boston Red Sox, and the National Film Registry.

Washington Cemeteries DC Staff

Quentin Datcher is our Visitor Services Associate.

Washington Cemeteries DC Staff

Jen Walter, Office Administrator, is an empty nester (of three), writer, avid reader and professional with organizational skills. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing, Communication, a Graduate Degree in Project Management, and International Development. Jen is a lover of history, music, dancing, travel, wine, and all things adventure.

She lives in Alexandria with her fiancé and they love exploring all that the things that the DMV area has to offer.

Contributers

Washington Cemeteries DC Staff

Laura Lyster-Mensh is a writer, podcaster, and certified end-of-life doula who has served as Historic Congressional Cemetery’s Death Doula In Residence since January of 2023. In addition to hosting death awareness gatherings at the cemetery, she is part of the cemetery’s Tombs and Tomes Book Club, is an Adopt-A-Plot gardener, and is a costumed volunteer at the annual Soul Strolls outdoor theater events. In 2024, she will be meeting individually and gathering groups at our new Transition Tea Room, where she will provide resources and support in projects like communicating end-of-life wishes, doing life reviews, reducing death anxiety, and living authentically in a finite existence. To reach out to Laura by email: Deathdoula@congressionalcemetery.org

Washington Cemeteries DC Staff

Kitty Linton is a professional photographer based in Alexandria, Virginia, originally from London, England. She has been serving as our Content Contributor and Photographer for our social media and events team since January 2023. Kitty holds a Fine Art degree, boasting over 10 years of experience in tourism. With a camera in her hands since the age of 8, her passion for photography developed early. Her fascination with cemeteries also began during her youth, often visiting The Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London and watching Hammer Horror movies. Today, Kitty actively contributes to the death education community and runs her own TikTok channel, focusing on Dark Tourism and cemetery history. Additionally, she’s an avid member and enthusiast of the HCC’s Tombs and Tomes Book Club. When not capturing moments in the cemetery, Kitty specializes in portrait photography, showcasing her talent in photographing the living.

Washington Cemeteries DC Staff

Ashley Molese (she/her; b. 1983, Freeport, NY) is an independent curator and cultural producer. She is the inaugural Curator-in-Residence at Historical Congressional Cemetery, and will create artist commissions and programming during her year-long residency. She specializes in site-specific commissions, collaborating with artists to conceive and produce large-scale installations in traditional spaces and outdoor environments. Her work focuses on the intersections of art, science and technology, and incorporates universal design principles into public engagement. Her past curatorial projects include FUTURES at the Smithsonian Arts + Industries Building, Light City, Artscape, the Baltimore Book Festival, School 33 Arts Center, the Overload Poetry Festival and Arts Access Victoria. She provides public art consulting for galleries and festivals, non-profit and corporate partners, and arts and entertainment districts.

Ashley received a Master of Fine Arts in Curatorial Practice at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2014 and completed her Masters of Arts in Arts Management from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia in 2010. She is based in Washington D.C.