Graveyard takes on extra significance for a Saskatchewan farm couple since the death of their son in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash
MONTMARTRE, Sask. — This sacred plot of land has always been revered by Arnold Bieber and his family.
And now they have another family with whom to share their reverence, pride and tears.
The Fairview Cemetery was created in 1906 by Brethren pioneers, who established homesteads in the area in 1903. Bieber’s grandparents were among the 53 Iowa immigrants who homesteaded and formed the first Brethren congregation in Canada.
More than a century later, Bieber, 92, and his wife Angelene, 91, still drive from Regina regularly to visit the refurbished cemetery where his grandmother, brother, aunt and several other relatives are buried. He spearheaded the upgrade of the cemetery in 1995, raising thousands of dollars to build a granite cairn on which all those buried in the graveyard are listed.
“This is where it all began and this is where all the stories are that I heard when I was young,” said Bieber, who farmed in the area from 1950-53.
Bieber recently visited the Fairview Cemetery with his wife and his son, Don, to appreciate the custom gates installed by Russell and Raelene Herold. The artistic steel gates feature a pioneer scene complete with prairie lilies, wheat stalks and the 1906 founding year of the Fairview Cemetery.
The Herolds have spent tremendous energy and resources maintaining and upgrading the Fairview Cemetery since their son Adam was buried here two years ago.
Adam Herold, age 16, was the youngest victim of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, which claimed 16 lives on April 6, 2018. The Herolds chose the rural setting to lay their son to rest not only because it is close to the family farm, but also because it was a meaningful spot to Adam.
“It was hard to decide but we just thought that this made sense to us,” said Raelene.
“Adam always came ski-dooing out here and he’d hunt around here too.”
Bieber couldn’t be happier to have Adam alongside his deceased relatives because it has been a struggle to maintain the prairie site. After the cairn project was completed, Bieber travelled regularly from Regina to mow the lawn and fix the existing grave markers. In the last four years, however, his declining health has prevented his regular trips.
“It was starting to go to the dogs because the grass wasn’t being cut regularly and the caraganas that were here were starting to seed everything,” said Bieber.
He considers the arrival of the Herolds, who removed the caraganas and maintain the cemetery, a blessing.
“I was really going downhill and the day that Russell came and asked me if Adam could be buried here I just told them that I’d go along with whatever they wanted because I knew what kind of people they were,” said Bieber.
Russell said it was important to make sure that the pioneers who started the cemetery were honoured in any upgrades.
“We designed the gates purposely to respect the pioneers that were here,” he said.
The Herolds have spared no expense to further improve the graveyard, installing a powder-coated metal fence and custom metal gates. The existing cairn and gravestones recognizing the original Fairview Cemetery members remains at the centre of the graveyard. Adam’s name has been added to the list on the cairn, and a stone with an engraved granite plaque marks his separate grave.
“We own the land right around this, so it’s home to us,” said Russell. “What’s nice for us is we can be working in the field or combining, and we can see it.”
The Herolds have also paid tribute to every passing member of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash by having their names engraved on stainless steel hockey sticks and planting an evergreen tree in honour of all 16 victims. Each large stick bears the Humboldt Broncos hockey team logo, as well as a special symbol for each victim, like the microphone for play-by-play announcer Tyler Bieber and a steering wheel for bus driver Glen Doerksen.
“We tried to do everything so you wouldn’t have to worry about maintenance and it would be here for a long time,” said Russell. “We hope people stop and enjoy it and for us, it’s just nice to come and spend time here.”
The Fairview Cemetery is located 16 kilometres south of Montmartre on the 606 grid and four kilometres west.