Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The cemeteries in Fort Frances have a history of being well-kept and beautiful. Weeds were always trimmed, flowers planted and plots cleaned.
Then COVID-19 swept in, shutting down services, and the cemeteries’ state fell below expectations, to the dismay of residents.
However, lifting restrictions across Ontario enabled the town to hire a few students to work in the cemeteries. Although the flowers weren’t able to be planted, the plots have been restored to a neat, trimmed state.
“I think it is great,” Mayor June Caul said. “I think we have accomplished what we are able to accomplish this summer in the best way that we could, in the timeliest fashion we could and I’m happy about that.”
The state of the cemeteries in Fort Frances has been a widely discussed topic. Pictures of plots surrounded by weeds so tall, they concealed the names engraved on the headstones, flooded the internet. Caul said this was a real struggle because they did not have the staff needed to sustain the constant need to trim the weeds.
“We were only able to get a few [students],” Caul said. “Finding students to work has been difficult because it has been such a long summer now. They already have other jobs. To find students who were willing to come to work for even a month or less than a month was not an easy of a job as it might normally be because of COVID-19.”
This comes after the town received numerous complaints from residents about the less-than-ideal view of the cemeteries while driving.
Caul said she hopes this is the only time the town has to work around similar inconveniences. She said she has been to a lot of places around Canada and she has not seen cemeteries as beautiful as the ones here in Fort Frances. This is why she decided to volunteer her own time to help.
“I went out on a Sunday myself and I worked in the older cemetery in Fort Frances. I worked there for five hours that day pulling weeds out and cleaning it up to at least make it look decent when people were driving by because I knew how terrible it looked.”
“I thought a little bit of volunteer work would make a difference. It took me five hours and I did 30 graves. My daughter was there for a couple of hours helping me with that as well. So it takes a long time just to get through them all.”
All things considered, Caul said she appreciates those families who volunteered their time to cut the weeds themselves and plant flowers around their plots, as did she on one Sunday.
“I appreciate families who did go out and clean up their own plots and planted some flowers themselves,” Caul said. “It was great to see that those people stepped up to do that kind of thing and it did help to alleviate the issue of having such a mess there from the get-go when we did not have enough staff. It was nice to see peoples step up like that.”