As the population of rural areas continues to decrease in many regions of Saskatchewan, the condition of a large number of country cemeteries has suffered. But instead of just watching this trend continue, Adeline Dutchak, who lives on a farm near Buchanan, decided it was time to take action. Three nearby cemeteries were of special concern.
The Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church Virgin of Sorrows Cemetery, located on her property, was quite overgrown and in need of some work.
“The small church building always attracted many motorists to stop in and take pictures, but the cemetery was in rough shape. The previous caretakers had passed away,” said Dutchak.
She was also concerned about two other cemeteries in the RM of Insinger.
The Mamornitz cemetery is where her husband Daniel and his family are buried, and it was mainly in need of regular maintenance.
The third was the Chabaylo Cemetery, where Dutchak’s father’s brother Nick is buried. “Previously people couldn’t even see there was a cemetery there and the wooden crosses were rotted,” recalled Dutchak.
She became aware of a work program at Whitespruce Provincial Training Centre (WPTC) in Yorkton, and contacted WPTC to find out more. Her efforts were successful, and the first crew of workers was sent out about 10 years ago. They have been looking after the cemeteries through the spring and summer months ever since. Spokesperson Margherita Vittorelli said the program provides labour for several cemeteries near Yorkton and around the East Central region.
“Whitespruce (WPTC) community work crew employs up to 10 offenders (now reduced to five to ensure adherence to public health orders) to conduct general maintenance such as lawn care,” said Vittorelli. “Through this work the inmates learn basic skills such as outdoor maintenance skills and teamwork, experience job satisfaction, and have the opportunity to give back to the community. The work is volunteer, although some of the communities will make a donation to the inmate collective trust account, which is used to purchase items for the inmates.”
Dutchak said plans are in place to put up a sign at Chabaylo cemetery which will include the cemetery’s name.
“It feels good to see this work being done,” she said. “Cemeteries should be clean, showing respect to people buried there. People buried tend to be forgotten about when the cemeteries are not looked after.”
Some have started calling Dutchak “an angel in disguise.”
Among those who have shown their appreciation for Dutchak’s work and provided support are Phyllis Viczko of Yorkton and Cheryl Kaban, who lives near Foam Lake. Both have relatives buried at the Chabaylo cemetery. Kaban has helped with killing weeds and Vicko provided assistance with fixing broken monuments.
Dutchak is grateful for any assistance, whether financial or if people are willing to come out and help with the work. She is available by phone at 306-592-4622.