A proposal to use an old underground vault at the Bashaw cemetery for storing cremated remains was turned down by council.
Marlon Wombold, president of the Bashaw Funeral Home, sent a request to use the enclosed concrete room located at the cemetery to place urns in a dignified manner. This was to ensure compliance with a change in provincial legislation.
At council’s meeting on Oct. 12, the request was denied.
Right now, there are 42 urns at the funeral home affected by this change and attempts are being made to contact any family to inform them of what has to be done.
“I was really disappointed,” Wombold said when contacted following the decision.
“I honestly thought it would be a good idea and a good use for the vault. The province would rather see these remains disposed of and I just don’t think that’s right.”
The vault is about 400 square feet and was constructed at the cemetery more than 50 years ago, explained Wombold in a letter to the town.
The vault was donated to the town by the Holt family and the funeral home in the 1960s, states the letter. It’s original purpose was to store caskets over the winter at a time when digging in winter wasn’t done. According to Wombold, the vault was last used more than 15 years ago.
“The idea was to take all of the urns that haven’t been claimed after that time, place them in a secure container and then put them into the locked vault,” Wombold explained.
This system is similar to what has been done in Wetaskiwin where urns are placed in a mausoleum that can be opened when needed.
“This way, the remains are in a dignified place that will always be a cemetery and also available if any family members are found or come forward to claim them.”
He added there would be a ledger for those urns with the locked vault only opened when an urn had to be removed or once each year to place urns inside and staff would be responsible for the work.
Council’s alternative was for the funeral home to purchase individual plots for each urn to be buried in and for a name plate or stone be placed on the plot. Wombold felt this was completely unfeasible considering the cost and then the issue of what to do should a family member request possession of the remains.
For the town’s part, CAO Theresa Fuller explained that council was clearly uncomfortable with the suggestion of storing remains at the cemetery, adding that council’s interpretation of the legislation is that the remains should be interred.
As for the next step, Wombold will be taking some time to consider what to do.