A grave sit­u­a­tion that needs ad­dress­ing.

His­tory buff doc­u­ment­ing lo­cal grave mark­ers, but need for on­go­ing main­te­nance ex­ists

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - ANNE FARRIES

Don­ald Pare hears the whis­per­ing of lost sto­ries and the echoes of van­ished his­tory amid old grave­stones that he’s try­ing to save.

The child psy­chol­o­gist and for­mer day­care owner, 61, has pho­tographed and re­searched more than 300 grave mark­ers near Bad­deck dur­ing the past five months. As he says, “it takes a cer­tain kind of per­son to do this, and I’m that kind of per­son.”

“I prob­a­bly have an­other cou­ple hun­dred (to do),” he said by phone Nov. 18 from Cal­gary, where he lives with his part­ner Sandy Buchanan. Pare is as­sem­bling his pho­tos of tum­bled grave­stones and for­got­ten ceme­ter­ies into a book, which he hopes to pub­lish in Bad­deck.

His pas­sion for the project started dur­ing a Buchanan fam­ily re­union. While vis­it­ing the house that Sandy’s great-great grand­par­ents built in Bad­deck Forks, Pare poked around in clos­ets and the at­tic.

“Of course, with five gen­er­a­tions liv­ing there, they never threw any­thing away,” he said. “The photography was un­be­liev­able. You know, glass plates (be­fore film came into use in the early 1900s, photo neg­a­tives were de­vel­oped on thin glass). The sad part was that a lot of peo­ple didn’t know who these peo­ple were, be­cause the pho­tos were so old.”

Pare wor­ried that if some­thing hap­pened to the house, the his­tory would be lost.

“I think ev­ery­body knows some­body in Bad­deck whose house burnt,” he said. “We were liv­ing in Toronto, so I kept go­ing back and forth, scan­ning ev­ery­thing. Then it was, ‘okay, this is kind of in­ter­est­ing. I’ve got all this stuff. Now what am I go­ing to do with it?’”

Cu­rios­ity about where the peo­ple in the pho­tos were buried stirred in him, and he started go­ing to the ceme­ter­ies and tak­ing pic­tures of the head­stones, know­ing that there was a great chance that a lot of them were rel­a­tives.

“These peo­ple — a lot of them were the founders of Cape Bre­ton. These were the first gen­er­a­tion who came from Scot­land. So, there’s a lot of his­tory.”

But na­ture, “as beau­ti­ful as it is, can de­stroy an old ceme­tery,” he said, de­scrib­ing one stone that he doc­u­mented, which marked a grave be­neath a tree. The tree had fallen over and was rest­ing on the cracked stone.

Be­cause the grave mark­ers some­times show no names, only dates and a sim­ple phrase, such as “fa­ther and son,” Pare of­ten reads up to 60 death cer­tifi­cates in a day.

“It’s a big job,” he said. “One head­stone can some­times take two to three hours.”

“It’s very sat­is­fy­ing to know that those peo­ple aren’t lost. It’s like yelling out to them, ‘hey, we know you’re here.’”

He has com­pleted about a dozen ceme­ter­ies, but some, es­pe­cially the tinier, older ones, have eluded him.

“One of the small­est would be Crowdis,” he said. “No­body knows where it is any­more.”

“I’ve got peo­ple in town that are help­ing me, and it’s very im­por­tant that we find it.”

Wendy Ni­chol­son has been “like a god-send,” Pare said, be­cause she has gone to ceme­ter­ies and taken pho­tos for him.

And be­fore Pare got started, Lloyd Stone, “for years, un­selfishly,” re­paired for­got­ten grave

mark­ers then stood them up­right again.

“A lot of peo­ple have done a lot of work,” Pare said, men­tion­ing Jean Doane, D. Ed­ward Macphee, John D. Macphee, R.B. Macphee and A. Hanam.

“Then I come in and take what­ever in­for­ma­tion I can get off the stone, and I just run with it,” he said. “It’s kind of like bring­ing (the peo­ple) back to life, but the sad part is you also watch them die in the process. It can get emo­tional, es­pe­cially when you’re deal­ing with the younger ones.

If you see a fam­ily lose four chil­dren to cholera over four days, you just think, ‘how did they go on?’”

Pare would like to see ev­ery grave­yard near Bad­deck doc­u­mented, but fears he can’t com­plete it.

“This gen­er­a­tion that has been do­ing it is get­ting older, so can we just light a match un­der the next gen­er­a­tion?”

“It would be such a good his­tor­i­cal project for young peo­ple … to get off their phones, go into an area and ex­ca­vate.”

“You would be walk­ing for a mile into the weeds, but it takes you back into the his­tory of Bad­deck, to when it was a port town with a much larger pop­u­la­tion than now.”

“Be­cause we have Lloyd Stone out there, lit­er­ally glu­ing head­stones back to­gether. And the work that he’s done… what hap­pens when he’s gone?”

“For this gen­er­a­tion com­ing up, it’s so im­por­tant to see that head­stone of a two-year-old lit­tle girl that died of diseases that we don’t even have any­more. You think of all the young lives that were lost.”

Trends and evolv­ing at­ti­tudes can be dis­cerned from the stones, Pare pointed out.

For ex­am­ple, “although Ar­me­nia Marie's head­stone cred­its her hus­band, Ja­cob Styles, as sher­iff, and her fa­ther, Irad Hart, as a prom­i­nent Mar­ga­ree lawyer, it failed to men­tion that she bore and raised nine chil­dren."

"In my own way, I feel I’ve given her credit, long over­due.”

Sub­mit­ted photo.

One of the grave mark­ers that Pare has doc­u­mented in the Bad­deck area.

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