Chattanooga Aspies History Hunters Enthusiastically Examining Past

Friday, November 13, 2015 - by John Shearer
Participants learned about Joe Engel and others during a recent tour of the Forest Hills Cemetery sponsored by the Chattanooga Aspies History Hunters.
Participants learned about Joe Engel and others during a recent tour of the Forest Hills Cemetery sponsored by the Chattanooga Aspies History Hunters.
- photo by Sue Lowery
During a recent Saturday morning at Forest Hills Cemetery, about 25 people traversed the expansive and historic acreage learning about several Chattanoogans who had distinguished themselves locally and beyond.
 
While the names of these Chattanoogans on their tombstones quickly jumped out as familiar, much less obvious or noticeable was the fact that a small handful of the people on the tour have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
 
In fact, Ryan Lowery, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s was coordinating the event.
With the help of his mother, Sue Lowery, and others, he had enthusiastically publicized the tour in the local media and was able to draw a number of others.
 
For him, it is simply a way for him to enjoy his interest in Chattanooga history, a passion that led to the founding of the Chattanooga Aspies History Hunters more than two years ago with Donna Wittman and with the Chattanooga Autism Center.
 
“We got interested when I did a ghost tour of Hales Bar Dam,” the 31-year-old said. “That’s how I got the idea for the History Hunters.”
 
A Facebook page and website were created, and the group tries to meet monthly or as regular as possible for historical-related outings.
 
While the events like the Forest Hills tour are enriching academically, they are also designed to help socially.
 
“People with Asperger’s like to associate with different types of people,” said Ryan.
 
The syndrome, which is not often noticeable to strangers, is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, and sometimes by repetitive behaviors and interests.
 
It is different from other autism disorders in that people with Asperger’s maintain their linguistic and cognitive development, medical journals say.
 
Sue Lowery thinks the History Hunters program is a perfect interest and activity for her son and a good way to enrich his life and aid in his development.
 
“It gives him a chance to explore his passion for history and trivia,” she said. “It’s kind of unusual for someone his age to be interested in history. He likes older people and it gives him a chance to meet with people who share his interest and passion.
 
“And it gives him a chance to speak in public,” she continued. “He needs to learn that and not be nervous when speaking to a group.”
 
During the recent Forest Hills tour, he welcomed the group like a veteran public speaker and after the tour was over enthusiastically invited anyone who was interested for a pizza lunch at Mr. T’s nearby.
 
There, several of the group and their friends and family heartily munched on pizza and ice cream and began planning their next historical jaunt, possibly to the Brainerd Mission Cemetery.           
 
They were ready to continue helping their future by learning a little more about the past.
 
Jcshearer2@comcast.net
Members of the Chattanooga Aspies History Hunters as well as friends and family enjoyed lunch after a recent historical tour. Group founder Ryan Lowery is in yellow, while his mother, Sue Lowery, is to his left.
Members of the Chattanooga Aspies History Hunters as well as friends and family enjoyed lunch after a recent historical tour. Group founder Ryan Lowery is in yellow, while his mother, Sue Lowery, is to his left.
- Photo2 by John Shearer

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