The cemetery takes on added significance for a Saskatchewan farming couple since their son died in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash
MONTMARTRE, Saskatchewan. – This sacred piece of land has always been worshiped by Arnold Bieber and his family.
And now they have another family to share their reverence, pride and tears with.
Fairview Cemetery was established in 1906 by pioneer brothers, who established homesteads in the area in 1903. Bieber’s grandparents were among 53 immigrants to Iowa who established homestead and formed the first congregation of brothers in Canada.
More than a century later, Bieber, 92, and his wife Angelene, 91, regularly drive from Regina to visit the renovated cemetery where his grandmother, brother, aunt and several other relatives are buried. He led the modernization of the cemetery in 1995, raising thousands of dollars to build a granite cairn on which all the people buried in the cemetery are listed.
“This is where it all started and this is where all the stories I heard when I was young are found,” said Bieber, who was a farmer in the area from 1950 to 1953.
Bieber recently visited Fairview Cemetery with his wife and son, Don, to appreciate the custom barriers installed by Russell and Raelene Herold. The artistic steel doors feature a pioneering scene with prairie lilies, stalks of wheat and the founding year 1906 of Fairview Cemetery.
The Herolds have spent a tremendous amount of energy and resources maintaining and upgrading Fairview Cemetery since their son Adam was buried here two years ago.
Adam Herold, 16, was the youngest victim in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, which left 16 people dead on April 6, 2018. The Herolds chose the rural setting to rest their son not only because he is close to the family farm, but also because it was a meaningful place for Adam.
“It was hard to decide, but we just thought it made sense to us,” said Raelene.
“Adam always came to ski-doo here and he hunted around here too.”
Bieber couldn’t be happier to have Adam alongside his deceased loved ones, as it has been a struggle to maintain the prairie site. After the cairn project was completed, Bieber traveled regularly from Regina to mow the lawn and repair existing gravestones. Over the past four years, however, his declining health has made it difficult for him to travel regularly.
“It was starting to get to the dogs because the grass was not being cut regularly and the caraganas that were here were starting to seed everything,” Bieber said.
He considers the arrival of the Herolds a blessing, who have removed the caragana and maintained the cemetery.
“I was really going down the hill and the day Russell came and asked me if Adam could be buried here I just told them I would take whatever they wanted because I knew what kind of people they were. “said Bieber.
Russell said it was important to ensure that the pioneers who started the cemetery are honored in any improvements.
“We designed the doors on purpose to respect the pioneers who were here,” he said.
The Herolds spared no expense to further improve the cemetery, installing a powder coated metal fence and custom metal gates. The existing cairn and headstones recognizing the original members of Fairview Cemetery remain at the center of the cemetery. 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 all around so this is our home,” said Russell. “What’s good for us is that we can work in the field or combine, and we can see that.”
The Herolds also paid tribute to all of the passengers in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash by having their names engraved on stainless steel hockey sticks and planting an evergreen tree in honor of the 16 victims. Each large stick bears the logo of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, as well as a special symbol for each victim, such as the microphone for announcer Tyler Bieber and a steering wheel for bus driver Glen Doerksen.
“We tried to do everything so that you didn’t have to worry about the upkeep and it would be there for a long time,” said Russell. “We hope people stop and enjoy and for us, it’s just nice to come and spend time here.”
Fairview Cemetery is located 16 kilometers south of Montmartre on grid 606 and four kilometers to the west.