Touring Cemeteries- A Favourite Past-Time
By Kerry Munday
Most of us at Stone Orchard Software have developed an obsession with touring cemeteries. As part of our jobs, we enjoy the luxury of visiting cemeteries around the world, often finding ourselves exploring them during our free time. Driving with Ken Munday is something akin to driving in a car with an enthusiastic toddler who has discovered trains, it is not uncommon for him to shout “Cemetery!” every time he sees one. My cemetery spotting skills have improved over the years, but Ken’s enthusiasm continues to be unrivalled.
Ken’s ‘Cemetery Obsession’ as I call it, was very apparent from the day we started dating. On his computer, there is a great photograph of him visiting a cemetery in Australia. Having never visited Australia before, this photo drew my attention with its very obvious differences to any Cemetery I have seen in North America. Attending his first Australian Conference, Ken was especially excited to visit a cemetery, wondering if he’d see any kangaroos. In his mind this would be similar to seeing a moose in a Canadian Cemetery – very unlikely. As luck would have it, there were several kangaroos enjoying the peace and tranquility of the cemetery. These icons of Australia made an interesting and eye catching background in Ken’s photo. Apparently seeing kangaroos in Australia is as common as seeing deer in Canada. Ken was cautioned not to get too close as they could hurt him, and although he looks happy in the picture, he also seems slightly apprehensive and ready to run at the drop of a hat. Coincidentally, he has not seen any kangaroos in cemeteries since then, maybe it is more like seeing a moose in Canada….
Aurora Cemetery Corporation (Ontario, Canada)
Our third date wasn’t ‘advertised’ as cemetery related, at least that’s what I thought at first. It was dusk, and Ken was driving, when he suddenly turned off onto a narrow windy road in the middle of nowhere. The creepy factor elevated a notch or two at this turn of events. My heart rate evened out when I realized we were heading into Aurora Cemetery. In any normal circumstance or relationship, that may have made me nervous, but it actually calmed me down. Having already been introduced to Ken’s ‘Cemetery Obsession’ I realized he was excited to share some of his obsession with me and we were taking a pretty big step forward in our relationship. I should note here – I am very lucky (for a multitude of reasons) Ken isn’t an axe murderer and we have safely visited hundreds of cemeteries to date. He drove through the dimming light to a small, beautifully built replica of the Empire State Building. The monument is for John Bowser, a Canadian project engineer and construction Superintendent for the Empire State Building in New York City. Sadly, there is no plaque in New York to commemorate his accomplishment. Some believe for that reason he ensured his monument was a replica of the building. After telling me the story of the monument Ken stood beside me in silence, allowing me to feel for myself the peace, respect, understanding and even awe that fuels his obsession.
For more information regarding John Bowser, please click on the links, below.
Although I now share in Ken’s ‘Cemetery Obsession’ I don’t embrace it in quite the same way. If it were up to Ken alone, we would have exchanged vows in a cemetery. I respectfully declined, since that revisited a little bit of the ‘creep’ factor I felt driving that narrow, dark road into the Aurora Cemetery 3 years before. I also limited our time in cemeteries during our honeymoon. I’m not at Ken’s level yet, but my obsession has definitely grown. When I left my job in 2010, I informed Ken I would be working for Stone Orchard Software going forward, and he was very happy (and perhaps a bit proud) that my interest and love of Cemeteries had grown that much. He hasn’t been able to get rid of me since.
Old Tennent Cemetery (New Jersey, USA)
Shortly after starting at Stone Orchard, Ken and I attended a kick-off meeting for our software at Old Tennent Cemetery. We arrived at the Cemetery with time on our hands. The grounds were stunningly beautiful, I could easily have spent hours reading and enjoying the different monuments. We later learned that the cemetery opened in 1731 when the Old Tennent Church congregation moved from the Old Scots Burying Ground to a new church 5 miles away. The Old Tennent Church was then replaced by the current church, in 1751.This new church was used as a makeshift field hospital during the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Old Tennent Cemetery contains a common grave of American soldiers who died at this Battle, and over seventy known Revolutionary War veterans are also buried there. Driving out of the cemetery, Ken and I watched hundreds of fireflies glowing, and couldn’t help feeling this was a wonderful tribute to all those laid to rest.
To learn more about Old Tennent Cemetery, please click on the following links:
Beechwood Cemetery – National Cemetery of Canada
For a few years now Stone Orchard Software has been working with Beechwood Cemetery, the National Cemetery of Canada. After many visits and countless hours experiencing the history and beauty of the Cemetery, staff from Beechwood Cemetery finally told us the most highly guarded secret they keep. Anticipation was high, we were expecting a tale that would include perhaps a famous pioneer or inventor from the area buried in the back lot without a marker, found through painstaking research…..Turns out, it is a delicious Canadian burger joint called “The Works”, which is located close to the cemetery, the historical tales were shared while we devoured some of the best burgers around. Sorry – the secret is out….
Beechwood Cemetery contains many famous burials, including explorers, inventors, writers and businessmen. It is also the site of the National Military Cemetery of the Canadian Forces, the RCMP National Memorial Cemetery, and is recognized as a National Historic Site.
Sir Sanford Fleming is buried there. Born in 1827, he was a scientist, engineer and inventor. He is one of the founders of the Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Scientific Knowledge. He managed plans for the Intercolonial Railway to connect New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to upper and Lower Canada, and created a rail line to the Pacific Coast. Another accomplishment to note; he designed the first Canadian postage stamp, the threepenny beaver.
As an inventor Fleming is known today as the creator of Universal Standard Time. Fleming proposed that the planet be divided into 24 time zones, to make rail travel easier. Starting at Greenwich, England (0 degrees longitude), each time zone covers 15 degrees of longitude and there is an hour difference from one to the next.
Fleming was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1897. He passed away in 1915, at the age of 88.
Beechwood Cemetery has a number of events every year that are very well attended, including an Annual Memorial Service in September, a Remembrance Day service, a Christmas Candlelight Service, and for those of us with a “Cemetery Obsession’ they also hold historical cemetery tours on a monthly basis.
Here are some links of interest regarding Beechwood Cemetery:
Not all of us are lucky enough to have a livelihood where we can feed our obsessions. Ken and I never take for granted the beautiful Cemeteries that we tour or the fact that “a cemetery is a history of people – a perpetual record of yesterday and a sanctuary of peace and quiet today. A cemetery exists because every life is worth loving and remembering – always.” (Borrowed from ‘This is a Cemetery’) Make sure that no matter your ‘Obsession’, you take the time to explore it… and in the meantime we encourage you to explore our ‘Cemetery Obsession’, take some Tours – I hope you come away with the beginnings of your own ‘Cemetery Obsession’.