How Edmonton’s cemetery workers help the living mourn the dead

Most people associate cemeteries with sadness and grief.

In fact, Teena Changarathil’s responsibility as supervisor for Edmonton’s municipal cemeteries is to make everyone’s visit as least painful as she can.

“We bury the dead, but it’s really not the dead we’re taking care of — it’s the people that are living and knowing that their family is taken care of,” Changarathil told CBC’s Radio Active.

CBC Edmonton’s Tanara McLean talks to the City of Edmonton’s supervisor for municipal cemeteries Teena Changarathil about how they make cemeteries as serene as they can. 4:11

“One of the things we really strive very hard for our cemetery parklands is to make it more of a tranquil, peaceful place for people to visit.”

Changarathil said at a time when people are in distress, a serene atmosphere can help people grieve.

But some cemeteries, such as Beechmount Cemetery, a historical property owned by the city, are also considered public parks.

“We actually have people come here that don’t have family members or loved ones buried,” Changarathil said. “They will walk around on the paths or do their morning exercises here.”

‘Peace and comfort’

Dave Snook is what you would colloquially call a gravedigger, though technically his title is equipment operator.

He digs graves using a backhoe — although in tight spaces, he sometimes has to grab the shovel.

“Just getting into areas is our biggest challenge,” Snook told CBC’s Radio Active.

It wasn’t a career goal of Snook’s to work in a cemetery, but he loves his work now. He said he understands why some people might be wary of cemeteries, but working in them has shown him a different perspective.

“I know people who kind of avoid cemeteries just because of the aspect of it,” he said. “But once you get here, it’s just completely different.”

Snook and Changarathil hope their work helps people who spend time at the cemetery find solace or even pleasure.

“What we’re doing is really beyond just the immediate — it’s actually to give peace and comfort to people,” Changarathil said.

“That’s the expectation our customers have. We take care of our space in perpetuity.”

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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.


Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

Originally posted 2018-07-16 21:09:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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