Tuesday, February 24, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 8 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Story4
 
       
       
       
       
       
Quote of the Week

“We’re getting into more and more stuff, and it’s time to start the younger guys.”

- Daryl Ferguson  
- on stepping down  
as Rescue chief  

 

 
I’ve always thought of cemeteries as historic parks.  Colourful outdoor interpretive centers chock-a-block full of fascinating stories. The stories are cast in granite, marble and metal markers that stand throughout the Pass in designated locations. They are there for all to see; silent sentinels leaning into the never ending press of that cursed west wind.
Each marker challenges our memory and some bring forth rich mental images and a wide array of recollections. Some warm, some painful, some funny and some filled with regret. You know the regret I mean. The one where you wish you had spent more time with the markers owner.
As a mining historian the Hillcrest Cemetery, in its spectacular mountain setting, brings out a feeling of awe and of astonishment at the statistic it presents.  The 9,000 pound granite monument tends to leave one in a pensive silence. 
Passburg , on the other hand, is a quiet out of the way park, serene and unassuming.  A small but lovely location where my mother finally came to rest.  There also one can find Jack Doddsley, who along with Martin Hruby, were among the very last underground coal miners to die in the Pass Mines.
Recently I wandered up to the old Coleman Catholic Cemetery to visit my beloved brother Alex; a fine piano player, piper and first rate coal miner who left us way too soon. The visit turned into a zigzag of remember them’s that led me full circle around the park and back to the entrance.
On the way the rich cross section of immigrant family names brought nods, smiles and the warmth of recognition. I called out there names just to hear them again.  Over there is Carl Sapeta, a champion hunter, fisherman and carpenter who used to help his father run “Albert’s Billiards and Bowling” downtown Coleman. Not far from him is
Albert, a Polish immigrant, who was one of the very first to settle in East Coleman.  Albert religiously noted down the start and stop times of our snooker games from that grand old CPR clock high up on the wall. A penny a minute!
Not far from him is Tony Dipinto, a class mate of mine, who we lost in 1978. He was an indominitable spirit who taught me how to make a first rate sling.  The lines have to be just so and the pad for the rocks needs to be of a soft hide like deer.  I can still fire a rock two hundred yards with it Tony.
Across the way from Tony rests Walter Patrick Mullen a retired Irish boxer and coal miner who lived across the street from my family for many years.  I laughed to myself when I saw his name as I remembered a time when Dad, who was fire chief at the time, was hauled out of bed by “Irish” late one Saturday night. He was hollering Johnny Kinnear at the top of his lungs and crying out: “My house is on fire, my house is on fire.” There was in fact no fire but only a concoction in the oven that had been badly overcooked. It was the first time Dad recollected that he had seen a “stewed Irishmen trying to make Irish stew.”
 
Further west on the south side I found Eugene Oswald’s place and memories of working a brutal 13 hour overtime shift with him in B-Level Mine came to me. He was an immensely hard worker who made a critical mistake in 1974 in Vicary Mine.  Gene used to police Coleman’s streets along with that comic book character Ed Corson, Chief of Police.
A little further west I found yet another mining casualty that I knew.  Big Bobby Dancoisne, another coal miner that we lost in 1969 when Balmer South Mine flooded. I remember Bobby’s big convertible and how much he loved it.
Names like Baruta, Kumiszczo, Kropinak, Pytlarz, Truch. All together in this one magical place.  Some markers are in Polish or Ukrainian. Some carry wonderful family pictures. Always there is evidence of recent visits and family tending their special place.
At the very south west side of the park near the old Forestry Offices lays a beautiful row of family markers. In behind them is a gleaming white statue of the Virgin Mary watching over this family. The family is the Ostash’s and how well I remember that day, March 24, 1964, when Allan, Edward and little Mary Jane Ann were taken. I recall my father describing how when he entered their house that fateful day he knew something was terribly wrong with the air. A painful firemen’s story to be sure.  Allan and Edward were to graduate that year and we put up silhouettes of them on the Horace Allen gymnasium wall for the grad ceremonies.
The names in each commemorative park throughout the Crowsnest are a marvelous cross section of nationalities that helped build the Pass towns and made it such a renowned cosmopolitan society.
One has only to pick up volumes 1 and 3 of Crowsnest and Its People to dig deeper into any given name. The family legacies are rich and warm stories that enrich the significance of encountering their final places.
This August one extended family from all parts of Canada will gather on the north side of the Catholic cemetery in Coleman to remember and commemorate the sacrifice of Joseph Louis Sikora.  Joe was lost in McGillivray Mine in 1950 trying to save his partner George Riapos who was trapped by a bump. Joe was awarded the Canadian Institute of Mining Medal of Bravery posthumously 57 years after this selfless act. Somewhere in that cemetery lies the unmarked grave of his partner George Riapos, a 48 year old immigrant from Czechoslovakia who was living in an 8 by 12 house in Bushtown when he was killed.  He had no relatives in Canada.  Hopefully they will be able to find him and include him in their ceremony. 
Cemeteries – parks with a message for all of us.
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John Kinnear Archives
 
 
 
   Volume 79 - Issue 8 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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