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Urn storage planned for cemetery

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 2, 2011

If long-time resident Mickey Brown has her way, the city's 2012 budget will include funds for a storage site for cremated remains at Lakeview Cemetery.

NNSL photo/graphic

Yellowknife resident Mickey Brown has been advocating for a columbarium park to be erected at Lakeview Cemetery. She would like to see a construction similar to Hoek van Holland in the Netherlands, shown in this photo she took in the summer of 2005. - photo courtesy of Mickey Brown

Estimated to cost $75,000 to build, a columbarium is a structure which holds cremated remains above ground in a monument-style installation.

The city, which owns Lakeview Cemetery, would like to address some land shortage issues and offer an alternative choice to ground burial, according the draft budget.

There has been some demand from the public for the construction of a park but the item has been left out of at least the previous two budgets, said deputy mayor Mark Heyck.

"It had been pushed back a couple of times, but it is finally on the books for 2012, so we will be moving ahead with it next summer," he said.

The city would like to place the columbarium in an area of the cemetery that is unsuitable for burials but ideal for erecting a monument.

The budget also calls for maintenance requirements of $1,000 per year for materials and $4,000 for staff.

McKenna Funeral Home director Janice McKenna spoke to city council Monday on behalf of Brown, who has been pushing the project since the spring of 2008.

McKenna admitted that while she supports Brown, she thinks the columbarium isn't enough.

"I am interested in a building with human remains which is called a mausoleum," McKenna said.

"It also houses cremated remains and it is a place where families can get out of the elements to visit with the person that they lost. That is what I have been trying to say we need up here."

Brown, however, told council she thinks a columbarium park would be a simpler idea for council to support. The idea came to her after the death of her husband, Yellowknife philanthropist and Order of Canada recipient Clarence "Shorty" Brown, who died in 2007.

"My husband passed away about four years ago and that is when we started going out to the graveyard," she said.

"There are a lot of people around town who have urns at home and there are people who don't want to go into the ground (when they die). They want to go into a wall."

Brown envisions a monument similar to one in the Netherlands' Hoek van Holland, which has hexagon-shaped cells to form a wall where people can put human remains.

She foresees each cell being 10 to 12 inches long, with a depth of five to six inches.

Similar in appearance to a beehive, each hexagonal cell would be set in a row in a stone base before others could be stacked up between them. Each cell would also have heavy glass on the front.

"When you come into the graveyard and turn immediately left, that is where a lot of new graves are and we hoped to put it on the left-hand side of that road," Brown said.

"(The city) took a lot of trees out for more graves but that would have been a nice spot for it with maybe a bench for people."

Both McKenna and Brown say they will be watching council's budget decisions in the weeks to come.

Coun. Bob Brooks asked McKenna to perhaps think about putting forward a mausoleum plan or a proposal for council. McKenna says she has never put forward a proposal of this type before, but has always had a vision as to how the cemetery is developed.

"I would love to be part of a plan to expand the services for the cemetery," McKenna said, adding that it is up to the city because it owns Lakeview.

Coun. David Wind said he sees the logic in having a mausoleum and the need to store bodies over the course of the winter to avoid having to dig in the frozen ground.

"I'd have to see the expenses and pros and cons before I could espouse it," he said.

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