For 25 years, a group of dedicated volunteers have worked alongside the City of Greater Sudbury to maintain and improve a neighbourhood cemetery in Garson.
The St. John's Cemetery Improvement Group was founded in 1993 by John Monaghan and over the past quarter-century, it has completed 25 major renewal projects at the cemetery.
“We're pretty proud about the shape it's in,” Monaghan said of the cemetery, which is the final resting place of about 1,500 people — mostly from Garson, but also from Coniston, Wahnapitae and Sudbury.
The 19 members of the St. John's Cemetery Improvement Group come from many walks of life within the Garson-Falconbridge community.
The team includes electricians, mechanics, carpenters, draftsmen, a heavy equipment operator, a school principal, a geologist, a former hockey player, a former mayor, and a cook.
Some are retired INCO and Falconbridge miners, others are business owners. But, for the most part, they each have a personal attachment to the cemetery.
“Most of us have very close family members buried here, so it's mostly about care and pride so that we do have a great place,” said Monaghan.
Over the past quarter-century, the group has gathered about 20 times per year to work on a variety of projects within the cemetery.
The group's first major project back in 1993 was the purchase and installation of 1,900 feet of heavy-duty chain link fence around the perimeter of the cemetery.
They followed that up in 1997 with the purchase and construction of a new storage and office building on the site.
The group then purchased and installed an irrigation system in 2006 and a set of 24 benches throughout the property beginning in 2010.
Other major projects include the renewal of several cremation gardens at the cemetery, increasing the capacity of the cemetery with the removal of dozens of large poplar trees and improvements to the main entrance and adjacent parking lot.
This year alone, the group has completed a re-build of the No. 10 Cremation Garden and has plans for improving the cemetery’s gates and the complete digitization of all of the cemetery’s records.
The group has organized four major fundraisers over the years to support its projects, which ultimately is about keeping the tradition of the cemetery alive for all to enjoy.
“Through the years, we've strived to keep the cemetery clean and in very good condition with the intention of making the cemetery a very enjoyable place to visit,” said Monaghan.