Niagara daredevil, Annie Edson Taylor, recognized with handmade wooden doll donation

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — The legacy of Annie Edson Taylor, one of the top draws at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, continues to live on thanks to a special gift to the cemetery.

A wooden replica of Taylor has been donated to Oakwood by a local family.

Constance Molak, a former Niagara Falls Public Library employee who died last year, used her creative skills to carve “beautiful handmade wooden dolls,” according to Tim Baxter of Oakwood Cemetery.

Baxter says the one that really fascinated Molak was her Annie Edson Taylor creation.

Molak’s family donated the doll to Oakwood which is Taylor’s final resting place in the daredevil section of the historic cemetery.

“I kind of wanted to have other people enjoy what she did with her life, the majority of it,” said Molak’s daughter, Cynthia Mercadante.

“She never was into self-praise or anything, but I think it would tickle her that other people are going to see Annie now,” Mercadante said.

Taylor happens to be one of the cemetery’s most famous residents. In 1901, she was the first person to go over the falls in a barrel and survive.

“She wanted to have some money for her old age,” said Judie Glaser, vice president of the Oakwood Heritage Foundation. “She designed the barrel herself. She had engineered it. She hired someone to make it. She oversaw the whole project. I mean this was a smart lady. “

Taylor, in her early 60s at the time, survived the plunge, gained notoriety, and signed autographs for “nickels and dimes,” according to Glaser.

But those dreams of big money never materialized. Taylor later got sick and required hospitalization.

“She was in Niagara Falls Memorial for such a long time that she was unable to pay her rent and the landlord evicted her,” Glaser said. “So now she’s homeless and she ended up sick again and sent to the sanitarium in Lockport, where she passed.”

And on the day the doll was turned over to Oakwood Cemetery, some of Annie Edson Taylor’s relatives happened to be in town visiting the burial site for the first time.

“I feel like Annie is that one extra little special gem in our family,” said Krystal Vancauwenbergh, a relative from Tennessee.

“We have this daredevil who went over the falls in a barrel, and she just tried to make her own way in a world that was kind of hard, way back in the past. It’s just kind of a fun part of our genealogy now.”

“Even though maybe going over the falls didn’t pan out the way that she wanted to at the time, it’s neat to see her just kind of like other artists who didn’t get the recognition in their time but later got some recognition,” Vancauwenbergh added.

“I love that she’s a part of our history.”

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