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7 Regina Cemetery Stories for Your Curriculum

7 Regina Cemetery Stories for Your Curriculum

· 16 min. read

For years I have been trying to find some way to bring the stories from the Regina Cemetery into the school curriculum. I've spent countless hours emailing principals and teachers around the city, trying to find some way to arrange a field-trip to the cemetery - or maybe even bring the stories into the classroom. In my opinion, cemeteries are not only a wealth of knowledge, history, and teaching opportunities but they also give students a sense of local identity.

I wanted to make 2020 the year of cemetery tours, but it is not going to happen - primarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic but also because of some municipal red-tape. But I think it is fair to say the way students are getting educated this year is different than past years, and that a fieldtrip to the cemetery would be a nice change.

So for all those parents out there that are now teachers, or teachers with online classes or smaller class sizes, or anybody who wants to bring local history alive, here are seven stories form the Regina Cemetery you an add to your school curriculum.

1. Mary "Polly" Hutchison (1886 - 1918)

The Secret Lives of Sgt. John Wilson

The book "The Secret Lives of Sgt. John Wilson: A True Story of Love & Murder" by Lois Simmie is already part of the school curriculum so your students may already know it, but few realize the local connection.

The story begins in the early 1900s with John Wilson looking to start a new life for him, his wife Mary and their young family. Wilson leaves his family behind in Scotland and comes to Canada, looking for employment, money, and new opportunities.

After two years of struggling to make ends meet, Wilson attempts to join the military in World War I but was denied due to medical reasons. Instead, he would join the NWMP (now the RCMP).

Two years after that, Wilson has established a life for himself in Canada, but he still has not been able to bring his family over. Now stationed in Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, he befriends the Pattison's family and is invited over to their place for dinner one night. While there, he meets Jesse Pattison, their young daughter. The two immediately fall in love.

Back in Scotland, after giving birth to John's second child in October 1916, Mary is beginning to wonder about the fate of the family. By New Years Eve, 1918, Mary decides that if she does not hear from her husband by April, she is coming to Canada to find him - something that, at the time, was not an easy feat. The war was still raging in Europe and the seeds of the Spanish Influenza were just being sown.

Back in Canada, two weeks after Mary makes her promise, John asks Jesse to marry him. She says yes.

On April 18, 1918, Mary Wilson steps off the train in Union Station, Regina, determined to find her husband once and her all. The following months would be a whirlwind of heartache, murder and marriage.

Mary Hutchinson (which is her maiden name) is buried in the Regina Cemetery in Block 75. Her grave often has flowers tied around it.

2. Lee Chune (1867 - 1938)

Government House

Lee Chune might not be a household name, but for those who visit Government House, you might recognize him by his alias "Howie". Lee is said to be the resident ghost of Government House, who plays pranks on visitors and staff.

How Howie found employment at Government House isn't well known - not even by Government House staff. In fact, only a single picture of him exists and only half of him made it into the frame. What is known is that Howie was a cook at Government House and was beloved by the Governor-General. We also know his sleeping quarters are on the Governor General's side of the building, so they are not accessible to the public.

For decades, the story of Howie has been a mystery, and some thought he was an urban legend, except for the mysterious photograph. This grave - and the neighbouring one, which appears to be his wife! - solves the mystery but opens many more.

Howie is buried in the Regina Cemetery in Plot 288.

If you want to read more about Howie or the ghost who haunt Government House, I recommend Judith Silverthorne's "Ghosts of Government House" which is available on her website, at Government House or at the Penny University.

3. Amelia McRadu (1908 - 1918)

Amelia McRadu

Amelia's short life ended tragically, but the events leading up to it is something, unfortunately, many students can relate to today. A month before he untimely death, the deadly Spanish Influenza pandemic roared into Regina, taking its first life on October 6, 1918. Less than three weeks later, by Halloween night, 2,000 people were sick in Regina and over a hundred people had died.

Regina during the month of October 1918 is a mirror-image of Regina during April 2020. Municipal and provincial policies requested people stay indoors. Public gatherings, including weddings, funerals, rallies, and marches were cancelled. Theatres, shops, and libraries were all closed. The biggest difference was that schools, which were also closed, had been transformed into overflow emergency hospitals.

Amelia McRadu's life was flipped upside down because of the pandemic. She went from going to class and playing with the friends to being stuck inside while a deadly pandemic closed in around her. Day by day, she watched the pandemic destroy parts of her life - until it eventually got inside the house and infected the family. Her mother, Parachiva McRadu, succumbed to the virus on November 5, 1918 and Amelia would follow her four days later.

Prior to 2020, few people spoke of the Spanish Influenza other than in passing. Fortunately, "The Morning Leader" newspaper has been archived online and the day-by-day challenges of the city during the pandemic are chronicled. It would be an excellent research project for any student, and one that they will never forget.

Amelia and her mother are buried in Plot 170.

4. The Soldier's Cemetery

The Soldier's Cemetery

The Regina Cemetery's "Field of Honour" is one of the most impressive, yet hardly visited locations in the city. This field contains the markers of over 350 soldiers - some that returned from combat, some that did not. Soldiers here fought in the Boer War, the North-West Resistance, World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

Each grave in the Soldier's Cemetery contains a story, from Able-Bodied Genhachi Sasaki who served in World War I but who wouldn't be able to service in World War II because he was Japanese, to John Zora who died from a mid-air collision over Mehan, Saskatchewan in 1943. There is also the grave of Roland Groom, who was not only a pilot during World War I but was also Canada's first licensed pilot and who operated out of Canada's first licensed air harbour (airport) located in Regina!

When you leave this part of the cemetery, you'll also encounter two very impressive howitzer cannons. These are German guns, captured in France on November 9, 1918 - two days before the Armistice.

5. Regina Cyclone Victims

Regina Cyclone

The Regina Cyclone was the deadliest tornado in Canadian history - taking the lives of 28 people. Not all the victims are buried in the Regina Cemetery, but many are. Over the decades since, many stories, legends and facts have emerged from the day the cyclone hit. These graves can help put names and faces to the victims, and help students envision a version of Regina that once was.

Some of these graves include:

*Barbara McDougal would die 6 months later from her injuries, being an official 29th victim.

If you have a class size of about 20 students, you could even have each of them do a research paper about the victim, where they were from, where they died and where they are buried. A great source to read "Cyclone! The Regina Tornado of 1912" by local author Warren James and illustrated by Carly Reimer.

6. Charles Miller (1895 - 1935) and Nick Schaack (1883 - 1935)

Regina Riot

The Great Depression is covered by most curriculums, but few mention the challenges Regina faced during it. Years of drought and unemployment left Western Canada struggling during the 1930s, and Ottawa's solution of "work camps" only made the situation worse. To demand change, protestors from across Western Canada began riding the trains towards Ottawa to convince the federal government to address the situation. Instead, the federal government shut down the railway lines leaving Regina, stranding between 1,200 and 1,400 frustrated, tired, unemployed farmers in the Queen City.

After a long stalemate, eight men were taken to Ottawa to discuss the situation with Prime Minister Bennet. However, talks failed, and the eight men returned more frustrated than when they left. They planned to hold a rally in Regina to tell the other protesters - named Trekkers - about what happened. During the rally, however, several police officers tried to arrest the leaders and bring an end to the protest.

This action sparked the Regina Riot, leading hundreds of people being mass arrested, over a hundred injured, cars being flipped over and stores having their windows smashed. The police responded with force, using tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the violence. Detective Charles Miller would die in the conflict, and Nick Schaack would die later from pneumonia he contracted while in custody by the police.

Charles Miller's grave is located in Block 273, and Nick Schaack's grave is located in Block 111.

7. Simon Fogel (1930 - 2013)


Fogel was born in Romania in 1930. When he was nine years old, Nazi Germany invaded and took him and his family to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He would be separated by his family and never see them again.

He would spend five years witnessing the horrors of the concentration camp until it was liberated in 1945. He would move to Sweden as an orphan and live there for two years until immigrating to Canada in 1947.

I visited Auschwitz in 2016 and it was a life-changing experience. I learned that day that there were two sections in Auschwitz where they sorted luggage, and people who worked there were not beat, tortured, gassed or killed. Because these were "safe" places to be, prisoners nicknamed them "Kanada 1" and "Kanada 2". I believe that Fogel came to Canada because he knew it was a safe place to live.

He would move to Winnipeg and then move to Regina, where he worked at the Regina General Hospital for 27 years.

His grave is in the private, although easily accessible Beth Jacob Jewish Cemetery just north of the Regina Cemetery. It is one of the few graves in English, and it has the engravings on it to show he was a Holocaust survivor.

Finding graves like Fogel's are important because it validates the stories from textbooks and the images from movies. Often, we are numb to history, and have trouble separating fact from fiction. Graves like Fogel's remind us of the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.

The Regina Cemetery contains over 30,000 graves - each with their own unique story, their own histories, and their own lessons. Some of these graves are mayors, premiers, lawyers, teachers, principals, police officers, prisoners, priests, and citizens too. You'll never know who you'll find in the cemetery.

Would you ever use the cemetery to help teach local history? Do you feel it is a good addition to the curriculum? Let me know in the comments below.

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7 Regina Cemetery Stories for Your Curriculum7 Regina Cemetery Stories for Your Curriculum

Categories: Canada, Dark Tourism, Regina, Saskatchewan

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