This is a progress report on the restoration of the Fernie Heritage Cemetery by the Restoration Society. The Society reached two of its main goals for this year.
Goal one, all research on internees in Section B (810 entries) and goal two, the initial cleaning and repair of the 310 headstones/monuments. Section B was known as the “Catholic” cemetery because this section was once consecrated by a bishop. A common configuration of the Catholic headstone was the cross. These crosses often snapped off the monuments when they fell over. These crosses were cemented back on the stones using PL Premium glue. Over 50 crosses were repaired.
The cleaning of the headstones/monuments was done with a scrub brush and water. Workers had to truck up water in pails, often many times a day, due to the fact our cemetery has no water. John Gawryluk of Cherished Memories has volunteered his time, pressure washer, generator and water barrels for professional cleaning.
With the help and bobcat services from the city crews, Joe Marasco and John Gawryluk, many of the headstones/monuments can be reset or straightened. This year Joe and John Marasco repaired two headstones in Section A and made iron markers for the rows in Sections A and B.
The unseen restoration work is mammoth. This is the data research, mapping, data entries onto the website and website development. Much of this work is done by Patrick Burke of Canscan Imaging/Computer Cannect. He has created our unique interactive website fernieheritagecemetery.com. Pat is beginning to place internee data on the website from the military section and Sections A and B. He is obviously overwhelmed with work, but with more time and money he will create a valuable resource for the community.
This multi phase and multi year restoration would be impossible without community support. Therefore, the Society wishes to thank everyone for the words of encouragement and praise as well as the volunteer help. A special thanks goes to Bill Fleming and Mary Star Lento who know the work they do.
On the financial side of things, the Society thanks all those people who gave direct donations or supported our Rotary bingo drives. The Society has been made aware of persons providing funds in their wills to foster the restoration in the future. A few donations have been as much as $1,000.
Although the Restoration Society has been successful in applying and receiving some grant monies much of the work is unpaid or partially compensated. The Society acknowledges the continuing financial support of the following organizations that supply grant money. They are the Columbia Basin Trust through the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance and Community Initiatives grants, the East Kootenay Community Credit Union, the FAR Summit Fund and the City of Fernie Discretionary grants.
Donations can be made on our website from Pay Pal or by cheque to the Fernie Heritage Cemetery Society and mailed to Box 1275, Fernie BC V0B 1M0.
By Leonard Kosiec
President, Fernie Heritage Restoration Society