Flin Flon Cemeteries

Among a grouping of children’s graves in Ross Park Cemetery is the grave of Melvin Harpe, (RP 2-52-C)*.  Melvin was just 9 years old when he drowned by falling off the dock in Channing, April 28, 1952; something that happened to many children over the years.  What makes this story particularly sad was that it was witnessed by two other young children.  On the dock that evening were the four year old Thiele twins. They were fishing unsupervised by adults. The twins came home that night and went to bed as usual.  Nothing said to parents about anything unusual happening.  The father, Anton Thiele, at work the next day heard that the body of young Melvin had been found near the dock.  When he got home he questioned his sons who calmly confirmed that Melvin had indeed fallen off the dock and never came up.  They were so young apparently that they didn’t fully understand what happened so they just continued to fish:  Even all these years later, it is impossible not to shake your head at the thought of those two little four year olds sitting there alone on the dock wondering about what they had seen and about where Melvin had gone.

(* RP represents Ross Park in my shorthand version of grave locations.  The sequence of numbers indicates Melvin is buried in section 2, block 52 and of the three graves there he is in plot C – the one on the extreme right.  Hillside is HS and East Hillside EH.  A map of the graveyards  is necessary if a specific grave is sought. These might be available at City Hall or Dadson’s)

Also in Ross Park Cemetery are five headstones belonging to the Tornerup family.  photo of Ross Park gate All buried in RP 1-059-A except for an unnamed baby who was buried nearby in May of 1943.  Myrtle Tornerup died about a year later and then in March 1951 three children, Ronald 4, Patricia 3 and Gary 26 months, in a house fire in Channing.  Mom had gone out to the coffee shop, apparently,  and the kids were playing with matches and hid under the bed when the fire caught.  It was a tarpaper shack and it didn’t take long to burn.  The headstones tell us nothing of the unbelievable tragedies that beset this family and the newspaper tells us little more.

There are nearly 5000 Flin Flonners buried in our cemeteries – almost as many as live in Flin Flon now.  (Ross Park has about 1800 graves, Hillside about 2700 and East Hillside about 200.) A significant part of our history is represented in our cemeteries, and for the most part ignored. Each grave had its share of tears rained down upon it. Each of the headstones marks not only a grave, but a sad day in the life of our community.  Our cemeteries are filled with names long forgotten by most.   There are five Kisses, two Lighthearts and two Loves.  There is a Dela Gorgendiere, a Younghusband and a Gniewczynski;  Even a Duffus, a Gook, a Snorro, a Klutz and a couple of Popps.  There are 21 Andersons, 22 Thompsons, and 36 Johnsons;  26 Smiths and 3 Weseens; 7 Brooks and 2 Dunns; four Wongs and 10 Whites.

Most of us visit a cemetery only for an interment and maybe do a quick survey of names on the way back to our car, perhaps recognizing a name – maybe just a surname – and maybe we stop briefly to recall a memory. Most of the names are just names  though.  We just walk by; but every grave belongs to someone with a story and headstones only give basic information.  As the years go along the number of people who remember those stories diminishes.  What follows is meant to keep some of these stories alive: Stories that I found interesting for one reason or another.

That we have four cemeteries might come as a surprise to a lot of people.  Actually there are six cemeteries in the area,  if you count the one out at Denare Beach and another over at the West Weir, (both of which are still ‘active’, that is, both are still being used.)  Ross Park Cemetery, not Ross Lake as many call it, is at the end of Boam Street between Centoba Ball Park and Foster Park.  It opened in 1933.   (The first grave is George Freedman’s, 1-7-C, from March 4, 1933.)  Hillside, opened in 1966, and East Hillside in 1990, are separate cemeteries, and are on the left side of the road going out to Channing. Flin Flon’s original cemetery is on South Main Street.  It is called the Children’s Cemetery, but it wasn’t just for children.  In fact there are six, possibly nine,  adults buried among the thirty four graves. (On three of the graves there is no indication of the person’s age.) It is generally believed that the children buried in this cemetery were victims of an epidemic, (waterborne dysentery), in the early 1930s, but it is obviously not true, The headstones cover a span of about three years.  The reason for the disproportionate number of children is very easy to explain.  If an adult died, and presumably people died at the normal rate in those years, their bodies were usually sent home to their families for burial.  If a child died,  his or her family of course lived here, and so the child was buried here.  Why is this cemetery where it is? The original community of Flin Flon was a jumble of shacks and tents built around what is now mostly taken up with the open pit and the tailings pond. When HBMS finally had had enough of repairing homes from damage done by flying rocks during blasting, it ordered everyone to move east of Creighton Street.  (That’s the street straight ahead of you when you pull out of the hospital parking lot.  You’ll notice the houses are only on the one side of the street – the East side.)    

As George Evans, an early mayor of Flin Flon (1937-8),  wrote:  “I can well remember the first burial we had in Flin Flon. (Tarjei Barstad aged 6 years, August 1929) There was no cemetery and the question arose as to where the body could be placed to rest.  Naturally we chose a spot close in, where the earth was deep enough to make a grave and where the digging was comparatively easy. We chose the site that is now the small grave yard you may have noticed at the south end of the Main Street. Several people were buried there until one day an official of the Saskatchewan Government came snooping around and made the startling discovery that the graves were in the "Province of Saskatchewan!". He raised quite a fuss and said the bodies had to be exhumed and reburied in the "Province of Manitoba" where they belonged.  However nobody seemed to be responsible for the location, or could recall how it was chosen in the first place, with the result that they are all still quietly resting there. But let me tell you that you can get yourself into a peck of trouble by deciding to bury people just any old place where the digging is good."  (Doug Evans, George’s son, remembers as a kid playing in the old horse drawn hearse that sat abandoned for many years at the old dump which was not far from the cemetery down behind Super K. With its glass windows smashed out the old hearse served very well as a stage coach in the cowboys and Indians games they played.)

Flin Flon’s original undertakers were the Guymers in the Pas who served the community for a few years.  Fred Smith was the first undertaker based here as of 1932.  Then from 1947 to 1958 Bert Baldwin was the town’s undertaker and he operated out of the ‘coffin house’ at 47 Hapnot.  It is called that because the roof is shaped like the lid of a casket.  Apparently not the intention of the owner but impossible to believe didn’t suggest itself to the architect. Bud Rogan took over and operated the business from 1958 to 1981.  During that time the funeral home moved to its present location, the former Mount Calvary Lutheran Church.  Dana Dadson took over as undertaker in 1985.  He replaced Ron Folstad who was only here for three years. The funeral home is one of the few businesses in town that has operated continuously since 1932. (Dembinsky’s and HB are the other two that come to mind.)

There are many drowning victims. Every summer there were three or four – most of them children.  (Those who question the value of the Aqua Centre, and the swimming program it makes possible in our schools, should take this into consideration.)          One of those stories involves the Billy brothers.  There are many who will remember Rich Billy who edited the Northern Lights magazine and then for a while the Reminder. But not everyone realizes he survived tragedy when he was thirteen years old.  Buried in Ross Park are Rich’s older brothers, Fred (30 years old) (RP 5-031-C) and William (29) (RP 5-032-A) who drowned on Mikanagen Lake, May 20, 1958, when the plywood car top boat they were in swamped in a storm.  Rich was the only survivor:  the only one wearing a life jacket.  It was a typical story – the older brothers faithfully promised their mother they would make their little brother wear a life jacket, but didn’t put one on themselves. Rich remembered that one brother disappeared right away, and the other was with him holding onto the capsized boat for hours through the night, constantly reminding him to hold on.  Some time in the dark he quietly slipped under the waves unnoticed by Rich, who was rescued the next day on the south shore by local fishermen. 

Horrible fatal car accidents have claimed many Flin Flonners.  There are six graves in Hillside from August 1978.  Six local teenagers died in a horrible single vehicle accident out on the Hanson Lake Road. The event completely shook the community. image of East Hillside Cemetery signThe victims were Kirk Iwazyk (HS 5-K-11), Scott Mackie (HS 5-K-10), Mel Aune (HS 5-K-12), Allan Pierangeli (HS 5-K-8) Kevin Billaney and David Judd.  Not far away,  buried seven years later, in HS 14-L-8 is David Iwazyk, younger brother of Kirk who was 12 years old when he died in a motorbike accident at Big Island. His passenger was Douglas Highfield also 12, and he is buried in 14-L7.  Buried in East Hillside in EHS 04-C-16 is Brian King who died in a fiery head-on collision just south of The Pas, October 20, 1993.  It also took the lives of Joel Fontaine (RP 3-94) and two of the King boys plus three boys from Grand Rapids in the other vehicle. At the time it was considered one of the worst accidents in Manitoba history.  Another needless tragedy caused by a drunk driver who veered into the path of the King vehicle.

A sad coincidence is that near Joel’s grave are the graves of two young people who were his grade six classmates - Jade Durkee  ( RP 3-083-C ) who died in another car accident in 1995 and Loree Morrison nee Eggert (RP 3-76-A) who died accidentally in  January, 2006 .  

Another tragedy was the helicopter crash near Cranberry August 24, 1984 that claimed the lives of three young women from Flin Flon;  Cheryl Evans (HS 15-L-16),  Sandra Antal  ( HS 10-N-18 ) and Diane Krokosz ( HS 10-N-16).

Mine accidents claimed an average of one life per year over the life time of HBMS.  The worst accident at the mine in Flin Flon happened at 5:40 PM, Monday February 27, 1933. There was a huge mud slide in the open pit caused by an explosion. The mudslide killed three men and injured nine others including the mine superintendant Maurice Roche.  image of Ewing headstoneTwo of the three men killed are in Ross Park Cemetery:  Xavier Sutterlitte (RP 2-8-C) and Mike Lekty (RP  6-007-B.) On August 8, 2000 there was an explosion in the HBMS smelter which killed Steven Ewing and severely injured two others.  The smelter was being shut down for routine maintenance and workers were ordered to spray water to cool down the furnaces.  Water came in contact with the molten slag causing the huge explosion.  Ewing suffered burns to 95% of his body and died 8 days later. He is buried in East Hillside in 03-B-11.

There are many here who maybe didn’t make the front page when they died but were sorely missed by those left to mourn.   These were people who made other people smile.  People who enjoyed life and made life more enjoyable for those lucky enough to know them.   Archie Donaldson, (RP 3-124-C), one of the singing butchers along with his brother Donnie owned and operated The Shamrock Meat Market where the Orange Toad is today.  Many people came into the shop just to visit.  They knew they would be made to feel welcome and they usually didn’t have to wait long to hear a song.  Archie and Don were wonderful tenors and their voices blended beautifully.  When they sang they could be heard up and down Main Street.  One year, on May 8th,   Archie’s birthday,  Rob Hart from CFAR phoned to wish him a happy birthday.  Archie pointed out it was also Mother’s Day and proceeded to dedicate the song ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’ to the mothers in town and then he sang it over the air.  Archie was always making people smile.  He never referred to Flin Flon without calling it ‘Fabulous’ Flin Flon and he would ask : ‘Where else would you rather be than Heaven on Earth which is here?’  Another was Alfred Lewis (Lew) Parres (RP 1-073-C) who died in December of 2004.  Lew was a legend in the prospecting world – named Canadian prospector of the year in 1988. Lew was never too busy to take the time to talk with a friend.  He loved a good joke.  He used to revel in telling people he knew God’s name.  When they asked him what it was, he’d tell them it was ‘Andy!’ just like in the old gospel hymn ‘In the Garden’.  (You know - Andy walked with me,  Andy talked to me …)

There are Flin Flonners buried here who did amazing things in their lives.  There is Dorothy Ash (EHS 04-D-06) who died March 15, 1985 who won the Order of Canada for her role as a cultural leader in Flin Flon.  Hapnot Collegiate’s theatre is named in her honor.  Unfortunately the plaque recognizing Mrs. Ash got taken down several years ago and has never been replaced. Norman ‘Red’ Bernard (HS 11-N-2) died in 1983.  Doctors Johnson and Stephanson started a very practical blood bank for a small isolated community.  There was a list of people whose blood type was identified and who were on a list as being willing to come and donate in an emergency.  Red was the volunteer in charge of making the calls. People who worked with him in the ‘bull pen’ below the mill said he was like a madman when a call came in.  He literally bowled people over if they got in his way when he was doing his thing.  Isabel Ketchen (RP 5-50-A) was skip of the best rink in Western Canada  when she won the Eaton Western Curling Championship in 1959.  On her rink were Doris McFarlane, Isobel Phillips and Ruth McConnell.)  The calibre of womens’ curling in Flin Flon was obviously very high.  In 1955 the same trophy was won by the rink of Ethel Wright, Norma McLean Jean Mackennzie and Philomene Floch.  Mel Pearson (HS 5-K-13) was one of the most successful hockey players from Flin Flon.  Mel was a member of the Junior Bombers when they won the Memorial Cup in 1957 beating an Ottawa Canadiens team stacked with future NHL Hall of Famers. (Claude Ruel, Ralph Backstrom, Bobby  Rousseau, And Gilles Tremblay to name a few.) Of course the Bombers weren’t without their own firepower with Orland Kurtenbach, Teddy Hampson and Duane Rupp – all products of Flin Flon minor hockey, as was Mel.  Mel led the SJHL in scoring that year and went on to have brief stints with the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penquins.

Dick Woloshyn (HS 14-J-2) carried out what many have said was the bravest, most amazing, mine rescue imaginable.  In 1971 Bob McGregor and Russ Allen were put to work clearing a pile of rock that had jammed the grizzly at the bottom of an open stope.  Basically a grizzly is a hole, with a metal grate on it, at the top of nearly vertical chute for the rock and ore to drop through to where it can be loaded for transport to surface.  The men were poking at the pile of muck trying to get it to go through when it suddenly gave way and they went with it.  They were attached with long tethers that saved them from dropping hundreds of feet to their deaths.  Luckily the grizzly jammed above them and the two men were left dangling helplessly in the dark with tons of ore above them threatening to let go at any moment.  Even if just one of the rocks fell through the grate they risked being killed.  In the fall they had lost their helmets.    The mine rescue team was at a loss as to how to execute a rescue.  It seemed hopeless, until Dick Woloshyn offered to climb up to them bracing ladders from side to side. Once this staircase of ladders zigzagged up to McGregor and Allen, the rescue team was able to convey them down to safety which in itself must have been unnerving.   (So far as I know there was no fuss made about the rescue.  No bravery awards.)

Joe Brain is buried in Hillside (2-A-7). He died October 8, 1977 and his estate has been responsible for contributing in a major way to the improvement, and in many cases, the creation of nearly every recreational facility in Flin Flon since.  Joe was a well image of Joe Brain's headstoneknown prospector and developer when he died at age 80.  The list of pallbearers at his funeral is a virtual who’s who of Flin Flon’s leading citizens at the time.  (Sid Hudson, John Siryj, Walter Pasika, Mickey Perepeluk, Roy Coulter, Jack Lavitt & Ted Baumgartner.) Joe had served in the French  Foreign Legion before settling in Flin Flon in the 1930s.  He was proud of that adventure.  He became a prospector and had claims at Birch Lake and Flexar.  He invested in Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting and in Inco with what he was paid for these.  His timing was good and he became a millionaire.  In his will he directed that his estate was to be used to help single mothers and kids.    

John Elander (RP 4-33-A) owned a dairy where Creighton School is today and his home was where the Creighton Post Office is.  A creek ran through his cow pasture under the intersection of Main Street and Creighton Avenue.  It was considered a great place to dip net Pickerel in the Spring.   Elander ran a taxi service where the Northern Café used to be on Flin Flon’s Main Street. It featured two 1939 Lincolns.  Another prominent name is Tom Barrow (HS 5-D-4C) our MLA in the 1960s and 1970s. Red Square is officially called the Tom Barrow Building. Early pioneer ‘Ma ‘Bell, Flin Flon’s grand old lady,(RP 2-7)  was a mother figure to a lot of guys in the earliest days.  Her grave is next to Lewis Bell – its marker was made of wood and so it is barely noticeable. image of Jack Freedman's headstoneAt HS 7-G-6 is the grave of Jack Freedman, unquestionably the most colourful mayor in our community’s history. He served as mayor 1953-56, 1961-62 and 1965-1970.  It is said that Jack served more years in office than anyone else in Flin Flon history. (The counsellor who rivals Jack for years of council service, Gunnar Folkstone, is buried right beside him. (HS 6-G-12)  Freedman’s Confectionary on Main Street was an institution in early Flin Flon.  A guy who arrived in town down on his luck had only to go to Jack and he would peel off a fiver to see him through.  Guys never forgot that.  The Freedman lunch counter was THE place to go for a coffee and to catch up on the town news. On payday most preferred to cash their cheques at Freedman’s over the banks. Jack’s chalkboard out in front of his confectionary was always good for a controversy.  The basement will be forever remembered for its pool table with its legs shorter on one end than the other to accommodate the irregular floor and the never-ending rummy game with its unique rules. Jack died August 20, 1976.  There is the grave of Chicago Bill Kowal in Hillside (12-M-3) who died in September 1988.  He was so strong they had to change the rules for the flour packing contest so he wouldn’t win every year. Rod McIsaac (RP 2-60-B) Photo of McIsaac headstonedied in December 1951 and was buried in Ross Park.  The grave was marked with the second biggest headstone in the cemetery.  The strange thing is that his body is no longer there.  In 1969 his body was quietly disinterred and re-buried in St.Mary’s cemetery in Winnipeg.  Apparently there is no official record of it being removed.  McIsaac was the local manager of MidWest Drilling and very important to local education. Main School, which used to be where the newest part of the hospital is now, was re-named in his honor.  In fact it was done while he was dying in hospital.  A sign was quickly made and placed on the school so Rod could see it from his bed.  Of course, the name McIsaac is still remembered with the school named in his honour in Willowvale. The third Flin Flon school to do so.

George Mainwaring (RP 1-62-A) was our second mayor.  He was a man of many talents He was a member of the British Water Colour Society, the Canadian Authors’ Association, long time editor of the Northern Lights magazine, and a controversial local politician.  As mayor he once asked the RCMP to forcibly remove a councillor from a town council meeting because he was being disrespectful!  Considering the characters who served on council in those days and the raucousness of most meetings, this must have been quite the confrontation if the RCMP was called in.  (One night council refused the police chief’s request for a pay increase so the police chief waited till they adjourned to their favourite watering hole on the hill and arrested the whole bunch.)

Probably the most impressive headstone has to be Tom Creighton’s in Ross Park at 3-74-B.  Tom died in the Company Staff House April 9, 1949. image of Ross Park Cemetery His epitaph reads simply ‘Here Lies a Man.’  That suggests he was well loved and respected as one of the co-discoverer of the ore body that made Flin Flon possible. Tom told the highly improbable story of falling through the ice while moose hunting and starting a fire in a cave to dry out.  In the flickering light of the fire he thought he saw the eyes of a fox and he threw his prospectors pick at it.   When he heard a clink he investigated and supposedly that is how he discovered the Flin Flon ore body.  The truth is David Collins, a local native trapper, showed him the ore body, and Creighton had the connections to exploit the discovery.  David is buried in the ditch just past the first bridge at Baker’s Narrows.  It is marked with a modest little headstone.  Nothing in Flin Flon has ever been named in his honour.

John M. Floch (HS 2-E-18) died at the age of 82 in 1969.  John was born in France and eventually ended up in Flin Flon in 1927.  He walked here from Cranberry.  It took him three days.  By the early 30s he owned a bakery where North Avenue Lane meets the Perimeter today – it would have basically been where the perimeter comes down the hill beside the Community Hall.  He and his huge family lived upstairs and their living room looked up Main Street, so their big living room window gave them a front row view of all kinds of activities. On a payday it was better than reality TV.  North Avenue Lane was one of the routes up to the Red Light District.  It was not far from the Liquor Store that burned to the ground in 1938: A very exciting event.  It happened just as the shifts changed, so men going to work rushed into the burning building to save some of the product and tried to hide their treasures in snow banks and woodpiles between the LC and the Company gate.  Of course it was the men who came off shift who were the main beneficiaries – they found most of the hidden bottles.  No doubt the Flochs sat in their window watching all the shinanigans.  Otto Klutz ( RP 6-5-2) the fire chief tried to haul the hand pumper over to the fire by himself because everyone else was helping themselves to the threatened contents.  Poor old Otto finally gave up when after all his efforts he discovered his hose had been cut in several places.  A reporter for The Miner, Jean Young, (HS 6-E-3),  (grandmother of famous rock musician Neil Young) found him passed out at home with an empty 40 ouncer of whiskey beside the bed where he laid with his big size 16 boots still on.  (When he died in April of 1939, the undertaker, Fred Smith, said he didn’t know how he could fit them in under the coffin lid.) The Floch living room window also looked down on the final showdown between the striking miners and the company in 1934.  Actually it was a showdown between the wives of some of the striking miners and those who wanted to vote on whether to end the strike.  Photos show the area from present day Red Square past the Norman Regional Health offices filled with people.  It was very tense.  Over a hundred RCMP in riot gear plus Company police were there.  Many who were there insisted the mounties had a machine gun on the roof of the Flin Flon hotel!  Photos certainly show some people up there, but whether they had a machine gun has never been confirmed.  Anyways it was a very dangerous situation and the Floch family was witness to it from the relative safety of their living room.

The Floch girls, all six of them, had mixed feelings about that view.  The biggest dances in town in those days were in the Jubilee Hall, where the Norman Regional Health offices are, and so mom and dad could see their daughters leaving the hall and all the way to the front door.  A fact that undoubtedly influenced their social life.

William Race ‘Hendy’ Henderson is buried in Ross Park (  6-4-A).  He died November 28, 1938.  Hendy was one of our pioneers.  A guy who obviously lived life large.  He was born in Leeds, England, moved out on his own at 12.  Prospected for gold in Nevada, oil in Malaysia and finally copper in Northern Manitoba.  In 1924 he became the post master in Herb Lake and in 1927 in Flin Flon.  He organized the Reg’lar Fellas, the Junior Dog mushing championships, the Flin Flon Community Club, the first hockey club, Rotary and Club 27, where he was the first president.  He was also a member of the Legion and the Elks.  He was Flin Flon’s first magistrate.  He once published a book of poetry (‘Hendy’s Northern Spasms’) and composed a number of songs with a Flin Flon and northern theme.  He died with a copy of the Club 27 songsheet in his hand.

(HS 16-J-7) is the grave of Art Wahlenberg who died at the age of 81 in June of 1980.  Art was the closest Flin Flon had for a veterinarian for many many years.  He was a gruff old Norwegian whose bedside manner usually included tearing a strip off the pet’s owner for some or other act of bad judgement and the cure always seemed to involve an enema (for the pet.) Nevertheless he saved many a child’s pet and was loved by all.  The arch with the changing patterns of Christmas lights up on Bellevue was Art’s idea.  The fire department maintains it now, but Art built the original to remind him of one like it back in his homeland.  At the top of the stairs in his home he had a rug made from the head and coat of his favourite pet – a huge St. Bernard dog. He once raised two bear cubs and kept them until one of them tried to eat him!

The most controversial teacher in Flin Flon history is buried in Hillside in HS 14-L-3.  The firing of Harvey Wheatonimage of Wheaton headstone went to the Supreme Court of Canada twice.  Harvey won the first time.  Harvey was the Physics teacher at Hapnot from 1968 until his dismissal about eight years later.  His tumultuous relationship with his students was matched with an even stormier one with school administration. When things came to a head and Harvey used some choice vocabulary to describe the school administration, the School Board hesitated to fire him and then did, which set up a protracted legal battle that went through all levels of appeal right up to the highest in the country.  It is probably still used as a case study throughout the province for how not to fire a teacher.

There is the grave of William Novosel  (HS 12-J-5) who was witness in one of the most famous trials in Flin Flon history because of who defended the accused.  The story is often told locally that former Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker, got his start as a criminal lawyer by successfully defending an area resident in a murder trial in Creighton.  The truth is several facts different from the legend.   For starters the trial didn’t take place in Creighton, it took place in Melfort, Saskatchewan.  Secondly the trial took place in October 1950 which means it was near the end of John Diefenbaker’s law career not the startJohn Diefenbaker was Prime Minister of Canada by 1958.  But it is true he successfully defended a Creighton man charged with murder.  According to the police version of what happened, (everything that follows is just an allegation made in court,) Roland Gravelin stabbed Robert Williams at a drunken party at Williams’ house in the Creighton subdivision of Flin Flon June 5th, 1949.  They had gone there from a dance and an argument broke out between Roland Gravelin and another man, Joe Holmes.  Holmes decided to leave but Williams followed him out to a truck owned by another man.  Somehow Williams got stabbed – apparently by accident.  They loaded Williams into the back of the truck and FOUR hours later they brought him into the Flin Flon Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.    The doctor estimated Williams had been dead for two hours by the time he saw him in hospital!  According to testimony given in court, the truck had swerved off the road between Creighton and Flin flon and struck a telephone post.  Evidently all involved had difficulty remembering exactly what happened.  One of the attending police officers said the widow of the victim wanted police to just say the death was caused by the accident.  She also testified in court that she saw Gravelin get the butcher knife from her kitchen, followed him outside and saw him raise his arm and stab her husband, but then allegedly she helped him hide the knife.  Police evidence included bloodstains on a piece of paper from  Gravelin’s bedroom as well as on a piece of paper outside the victim’s house.  The jury had trouble with all the confusion within the Crown’s case.  Diefenbaker basically sat quietly throughout the trial without cross-examining most of the witnesses, then tore the Crown’s case apart at the end.  The defendant was unanimously found not guilty.  To this day it is an unsolved murder.

We’ve had our share of murders. Some may question the need to mention these, but they are part of our history and deserve to be included if for no other reason than to remind us that such events have always been a part of our lives.   That is, life in Flin Flon isn’t getting more dangerous.  We like to think we live where such violence doesn’t occur, but of course it does.  There is, for example, the grave in Hill Side Cemetery of 34 year old Ron Highway (HS 6-J-11) the victim of an axe murder behind the Flin Flon Bakery in March of 1988.  There is, also in Hillside, a pair of graves (6-I- 14 &15) for the Asmus brothers, Lionel and Gary, who died November 19, 1974.  They allegedly got into a dispute with the owner of the Jan Lake Lodge over buying some beer and they were shot.  Tragedy seems to have stalked the Asmus family in that period.   Nearby in Hillside  (HS 5-H-11 & HS 5-H-10) are the graves of three and a half year old Danny Lee Asmus, little brother to Lionel and Gary, and their dad Willard Asmus, aged 45.  They died in a house fire in Cranberry along with two other little kids. Actually Willard made it out of the house unscathed and died when he ran back inside to rescue the kids.

Flin Flon garnered international attention in May 1993 with what was dubbed the ‘Copycat Murders’.  Marjorie McConnell (EHS 04-C-01)image of McConnell headstone and her son Chris (EHS 04-C-02) were killed by Jim Bridson when he broke into their townhouse in the middle of the night.  He also shot Shannon, Marjorie’s daughter and Chris’ sister, in the face but she miraculously survived.  Eighteen year old Jim was incensed that Marjorie had put an end to his relationship with her 13 year old daughter Meagan. After shooting her mom and her siblings, he abducted Meagan. For more than three days the police searched for Jim who had taken refuge in an abandoned cement mixer up on the Cliff Lake Road.  They were discovered only after a worker noticed suspicious irregularities and guessed what they meant.  Police quickly arrested Jim without incident.  It was called the ‘Copycat Murders’ because a week earlier there was a made-for-television movie (Murder in the Heartland) about a similar event in the American Midwest a couple of decades earlier.  Charles Starkweather and his 14 year old girlfriend had murdered her family and then gone on a killing rampage.  The speculation was of course that this inspired Bridson.

In Hillside is the grave of 23 year old Dorian Simon (HS 04-E-06) image of Simon headstonea taxi driver stabbed to death in Creighton. At about 11:30 PM on March 31, 1994 Dorian picked up two fares in Flin Flon and took them to a remote area of Creighton.  There his convicted murderers Murray Sheridan and Johnny Ballentyne stabbed him four times in the chest and stomach and left him for dead.  Dorian was able to radio in a distress call and police found him just before midnight.  He died two hours later in Flin Flon General Hospital.

There are of course many graves belonging to people who served in the armed forces.   John Andrew Dempster (RP 6-24-A) died April 11, 1950 in Cyprus.  John was given a citation for extraordinary bravery.  Joseph McCormick (RP 2-9-B) was Flin Flon’s first war casualty.  He was killed in an accident while training to be a pilot for the Canadian air force in Yorkton.  It was the biggest funeral ever held in Flin Flon.  So important to the community that even Freedman’s closed for it. In the early days Freedman’s never closed, day or night. The Roman Catholic Bishop conducted the high requiem mass at St. Anne’s church.  The funeral procession was two kilometres long.  Joe was buried with full military honours – that is with his casket draped in the flag.  He was twenty years old.  Right next to Joseph’s grave is a headstone commemorating his twin brother Jack, but Jack’s body is not under it. He was shot down over the English Channel and his body never recovered.  (There was another McCormick brother, older than the twins, who also joined the RCAF.  He was called Dan.  He survived the second World War and he had two sons who he named Joe and Jack.  Joe is the news man at CFAR.)

Barry McFarlane is buried at Hillside (5-B-2).  He died July 1981 for the second time.  Apparently he drowned in Athapap in the 1960s though his body was never recovered.  People who knew him reported seeing him at different times in different places afterward.   An RCMP Sergeant McLachlin recognized him in a BC logging camp.  For reasons unknown, several years later, McFarlane was apparently was able to move back to Flin Flon and resume his life here.  If he was held responsible for any kind of insurance fraud it is not common knowledge.  He died in an accident at Millwater quarry. 

The story that topped them all, that captured the attention of the whole country, is the story of Walter Sedor.  In May of 1960 he and his dad, Steve Sedor (HS 6-A-7), were flying in a small plane owned by Midwest Drilling and piloted by its manager Ken Harrison.  They were just going out for a couple of hours fishing when the plane crashed near Tartan Lake.  For two weeks the missing aircraft was the object of an intense search and then by luck Harvey Evans, a TransAir pilot on a charter flight to Puk saw Walter waving from a high rock. Harvey had been telling a passenger, Fred Seeger, about the lost plane and realized they were passing over the area where it had gone down. As he looked out the window he saw the skelton of a downed plane.  He quickly circled back around  and that was when he saw young Walter. In short order a helicopter was able to rescue 8 year old Walter.  The pilot had died on impact and Walter’s dad died shortly after, but not before he told Walter to stay with the plane which he did.  His dad also told him to look for the lunch kit of emergency rations.  Walter looked but couldn’t find it.  So for fifteen days he sat with the bodies of his dad and the pilot.  He had no food. He somehow survived the chilly nights in bare feet – his shoes had flown off his feet on impact and burned in the plane.  He found a kind of a cave made a bed of leaves and was able to pull a rock across for safety.  When a mother bear and her cub came nosing around he managed to stay out of trouble by climbing a tree.  Apparently he played with the cub.  After his rescue, and in the hospital, he said to his mom when she arrived: “Hi mom. You sure took a long time sending someone to find me.”   His favourite toy for a long time afterward was a model of a Beaver aircraft given to him by Harvey Evans, his saviour.  

Flin Flon
Temporary Cemetery
Hillside
Cemetery Map
Ross Cemetery Map
image of Flin Flon Temporary Cemetery document image of Hillside Cemetery Map Ross Cemetery Map

If you have constructive criticism, if you have a story you feel deserves to be included in this, please feel invited to contact me.  If I get enough positive feedback I will try to convert this into a walking tour

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