Since 1911, the Beaverlodge Cemetery has served Beaverlodge and area residents with a final resting place.
Now, it needs some help.
Plots have sunk, tombstones sit crooked and Rena Kyle, secretary/treasurer of the cemetery board, hopes to get the site in tip-top shape.
The cemetery just east Beaverlodge at the corner of Hwy. 667 and Range Road 95, sits on a hill. Erosion and time are the main culprits behind its degenerating condition.
Kyle is spearheading the work to restore the cemetery as they level the ground and clean up around the gravestones.
“We're going to need family, friends, donations and corporate donations to actually see this through,” said Kyle.
A total cost of about $40,000 is needed for the restoration.
The County of Grande Prairie gives the cemetery about $4,000 a year via its Cemetery Improvement Grant program, but much more is needed now, according to Kyle.
Currently, work is underway on range C with an expected cost of $10,000.
The cemetery is using funds from the county’s grant from 2020 and 2021 to complete it or until funds are depleted.
She said that ranges B and D are in similar condition and estimates each will cost about $10,000 in repair as well. With ranges A and E being smaller, the combined cost will be about $10,000.
Kyle has hired experienced hands to help with the restoration to ensure the proper care and attention is applied to the plots. She said volunteers have pitched in to assist with clean-ups and seeding the areas.
“This is very important,” said Stan Hanson, one of the workers taking care of the restoration.
“People are so happy after they visit the restored spots,” said Hanson, “they come through, they look, they know what it looked like, and they're in tears, some of them because it's so much nicer.”
The last major restoration of the cemetery was done in 1981 to 1983, said Kyle.
Along with the restoration, regular maintenance is still needed around the cemetery.
“In the last probably five to eight years we have taken out more than 60 dead trees,” she said.
On Aug. 9, on behalf of the cemetery, Kyle asked the Town of Beaverlodge for financial support to help extend the project this year and keep up the needed work.
Town council decided not to grant any funds to the cemetery but offered a space in kind for fundraising if needed.
Beaverldoge mayor Gary Rycroft noted the cemetery has meaning to him with his parents residing there and that he would be donating to its cause.
The mayor said several cemeteries surround Beaverlodge and that the town couldn’t commit funds to just one.
“If we did one, we're going to have to do them all, and I believe it's up to the families of the deceased that they take care of the cemeteries,” he said.
Tracking down family members of the deceased to help is not an easy job, explains Kyle.
“The Town of Beaverlodge adds a whole different dimension because people come and go, they come, and they stay for 10 years, and they bury someone they leave, and no one knows where they are now,” said Kyle.
She explained that many professionals have come and gone through Beaverlodge as they would come due to the airbase or the research farm from all over the country.
Looking over the cemetery is nothing new to Kyle. Her parents were involved in many of the cemetery clean-ups for years, and she participated as a child. Her mother was the secretary and treasurer from 1975 to 2005 until Kyle took the position.
Her children and grandchildren now come and help with the clean-up as well.
The cemetery is full of Beaverlodge history, and she likes to remember “what all of these people did to make our community so amazing.”
Kyle is hopeful for the future. At the board’s recent AGM July 29, 27 people attended, compared to the six or seven in the past, said Kyle.
She was once told by a widow, “I will gladly donate money because I have tried every year to do something for my deceased husband.
“This makes me feel good that I'm actually doing something for him.”
Anyone interested in donating or contacting the Beaverlodge Cemetery can do so at their email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, cheques can be mailed to Box 2158 in Beaverlodge, T0H 0C0.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News