Bernie Fandrich (l)

Bernie Fandrich (l)

Annual Lytton cemetery clean-up is a fun community event

For 30 years volunteers have been coming together to keep the historic Lytton cemetery tidy.

  • Apr. 19, 2016 8:00 p.m.

Bernie Fandrich

Recently 25 volunteers brought rakes to one of Lytton’s age-old burial places for the cemetery’s annual spring cleaning. The site was originally the fenced-in graveyard of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, which dates back to 1872. The cemetery is visible from Hwy. 1 at the south entrance to Lytton.

The original church and graveyard overlooked Lytton for about 25 years before the church was dragged down the hill into town, where it stands today as a historic landmark and place of worship.

Dorothy Dodge, the cemetery’s long-time contact person, was at this year’s clean-up. She hasn’t missed one in more than 30 years.

“Years ago a Mr. Snickers came to Lytton from Victoria to reprimand us about the deplorable condition of our cemetery,” she recalls. “He said it was a disgrace. Weeds had taken over the place, six inches of pine needles covered the graves, and damaged grave markers and broken tree branches were everywhere.

“But the worst part was that there was no good record of who was buried here. Plots had been randomly assigned, and sometimes when the backhoe dug a grave it would run into a bone or two.

“That was around 1985. We had some fixing to do.”

The first job for the newly appointed cemetery committee was to develop a site plan; then the grounds and grave markers needed attention. Dorothy spoke with her son Doug Dodge, who grew up a few hundred metres from the cemetery. He was a licensed surveyor working in Williams Lake.

Doug volunteered to come home to Lytton and survey all the visible landmarks. His Lytton friend Lee Desmarais assisted Doug, and together they identified and plotted 166 graves and important features like gnarly old pine trees and key gravestones.

Groups pitched in and devoted time to the revitalization project. Individuals who had family members resting there helped out, and soon the Lytton cemetery met the approval of Mr. Snickers.

The oldest visible tombstone in the graveyard reads 1876. Many of the wooden markers have crumbled, so there may be even older pioneers resting there.

“I’m too old and my knees don’t let me rake anymore,” Dorothy says.  “I come out every year anyway, brush off a few tombstones, and shuffle over to say hi to Lloyd,” (her late husband).

“This place looks damn good now,” she says proudly. “I’m 85, so one of these days I’ll be spending a lot more time with Lloyd. But for now, I’ll just come for a visit and cheer on the pine needle rakers.”