St. John’s cemetery celebrates 160th

A cemetery honours the dead, but simultaneously it celebrates life.

St. John’s Cemetery at Woodbine Avenue and Kingston Road is 160 years old this year.

Although operated by the Church of St. John the Baptist, Norway (Anglican), the cemetery has always been open to all, from the early United Empire Loyalists to the cosmopolitan population of Toronto today.

There are numerous daily visitors who visit loved ones buried here, come to the office to make arrangements for a burial, witness a cremation, attend a funeral or burial service, seek genealogical information, and of course walk their dogs … people may always be found here.

And today the people reflect Toronto. This is a cemetery where people of varied religions with varied funeral practices come to pay their final respects to loved ones. It is a place where anyone is welcome. And so we will celebrate life! We are thankful for the opportunity to serve this great community. Please join us in the celebration.

In recognition of its long service to the Beach community, a celebration is planned and new programs have been instituted. Join us Sept. 15 when we start the celebrations with a 10:30 a.m. service at the church (500 Woodbine Ave.) with Archbishop Terry Finlay presiding.

At noon we will serve lunch on the cemetery grounds (256 Kingston Rd.) with children’s entertainment including a scavenger hunt and face painting. For the adults there will be an historical walk, musical entertainment and a memorial tree raffle.

In 1853, Charles Coxwell Small deeded 3 acres of his land to the Lord Bishop of Toronto, The Rt. Rev. John Strachan, for the construction of an Anglican church with an adjoining “churchyard” to serve the then rapidly growing community of Norway, east of Toronto.

In the first 70 years the cemetery expanded several times, reaching its current 35 acres in 1925. There are now 80,000 interments at St. John’s.

In 1998 a crematorium was added to ensure that the cemetery provided a full range of contemporary services for the needs of the 21st century.

Programs and Special Features to look for at St. John’s Cemetery:

• Bereavement Care
• Book Club
• Movie Night
• Five-week session with a bereavement facilitator

Memorial Tree

• Purchase a tree in memory of a loved one – whether or not the burial is at St. John’s

War Graves

• Visit the graves of veterans in Section 11. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, located in Ottawa, has beautifully restored these graves.

Graves of well-know Eastenders

• Charles Coxwell-Small
• The Ashbridge plot
• William Dawes – the first registered interment
• Ted Reeve
• R.C. Harris

Rev. Canon Cheryl Palmer is director of Cemetery Ministries at St. John’s Norway

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