County supports historic cemetery with $3,000 grant

  • Jun. 1, 2011 8:00 p.m.
The small cemetery on the corner of Dick and Fran Osokin’s land is only a stone’s throw away from Secondary Highway 771

The small cemetery on the corner of Dick and Fran Osokin’s land is only a stone’s throw away from Secondary Highway 771

ADAM JACKSON/Ponoka News

For Dick and Fran Osokin, it’s about preserving their family’s history.

On the corner of their land, northeast of Rimbey, lays a small cemetery, where many of Dick’s relatives are buried.

The Osokin family immigrated to Alberta from Russia in the 1920s — during the Russian Revolution Dick had always known that he had a cemetery on his family farm, but it had become overgrown and many of the plots were unmarked.

“We had always intended to try to do something with it, but it wasn’t until we were approached about easement for (Secondary) Highway 771 that we decided it should become a priority again,” said Fran.

The worker who had approached the couple for an easement was shocked to find out about the cemetery on the edge of the highway, as it had completely fallen off the county map.

“He just sort of packed up his papers and left, I don’t think he know what to do,” said Fran.

The cemetery, which was started in the early 1940s, had lain essentially untouched since the mid 1970s, when another family cleaned away a small area where their loved ones were buried.

In 2001, Dick along with his brother and Fran, made the decision to start marking the plots and maintaining the cemetery. The work was exhausting, but with the help of the settled soil around the plots, they were able to find all of the plots and give them proper markings.

Shortly after, Dick’s brother died and his ashes were spread across the family cemetery.

Over the past 10 years, Dick and Fran have maintained and cared of the cemetery in their spare time, while spending their own money as well.

On May 10, Dick and Fran approached Ponoka County council for a grant, after hearing about funding that was in place of another cemetery close by.

The couple asked for $2,500 to cover the cost of the materials put in to the cemetery, including plans to put a chain string around the outside of the cemetery. Council unanimously approved a onetime grant of $3,000 — $500 more than they had asked for.

“I didn’t know (if we were going to get funding),” said Fran. “I was thinking the worst thing that can happen is they say ‘no, sorry, we can’t help you.’ We were just overwhelmed, it does compensate for a lot of the material expenses that we put into it.”

The elderly couple is unsure about what will be done with the cemetery once they are gone.

“We’ll take care of it as long as we’re around,” said Fran.

For now, the couple is seeking a grant from the Government of Alberta to create a sign and fully finish renovations to the cemetery.

Through the Culture and Community Spirit Grant, the couple could receive a one-time payment of up to $5,000 to help maintain the cemetery.