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The Mortuary of St Anthony's

We believe that this photo is of the opening
of Old St Anthony's Mortuary (Chapel) on Oct 5 1913.
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The Memories of a Senior Citizen

In around 1945 Joseph Kominek went with his parents to a funeral at St Anthony's Cemetery. He was a young lad of about 8 years old, and thus only remembers very small parts of that day.

The funeral service was indeed held in what is today called "The Old St Anthony's Mortuary". He cannot remember the name of the departed. He was just a very young boy and this was the funeral of a friend of one of his parents.

There are two things that he remembers though. One was the way that the sun shone through that stained glass window. He said that it was a reddish orange in colour. And indeed we can see that today! And he mentions that the sun shining through there was so warm and bright and beautiful. This was indeed a winter's day! Mary Manninger cannot remember any such use of that building, and she is a similar age, so it is VERY likely that this service that Joe attended was one of the last of it's kind. Funeral Homes were coming into wider use. The Horseless Carriage Hearse was coming in. This time marks the end of a long tradition.

The other thing that Joe can remember is wanting to climb up on the shelves to get a better view. What he did not realize (until it was explained to him) was that these shelves were coffins with remains of people being stored to be buried later when the frost came out of the ground. He mentions that they were stacked with cloths covering them. And of course, his parents could not allow him to climb on the coffins out of respect for the dead inside.

It was of course the norm in those days to store a coffin rather than burying it when the frost just got too thick and heavy. It was pretty much impossible work to break through that frozen ground one little chip at a time with a chisel and pick. Joe remembers his father talking about how the bodies were stored. His father was from Czechslovakia. So this may in part be information from both countries. His father mentioned that they really needed the bodies in those coffins to freeze. So, the way to do that was to open those coffins at night when the weather was very cold. Then, during the day time to close the lid down again, putting the cloth shroud back on the top. By doing this, when spring came, the bodies would stay frozen in that one little room for a long while.

We would like to thank Joe for his insight here. It is little bits of information like that, that makes this site so worth while!

A Post Script to this story. A couple of members of our group have found indications also of similar funerals in this old Rest Room (Chapel might we call it?) but the people involved with these stories did not want them published on the net and we must respect the privacy of people on a web site such as this one even more than usual. However, these notes were indeed written in family Bibles and were seen by members of our group. I would also like to add that Joe Kominek who is quoted in the story above is no longer with us. However, I often think of him and still am so thankful for his memories to be posted here and his interest in our project. Joe we often think of you!

John Skakel

The Old St Anthony's Mortuary
Photo by T Nigh

Mortuary Opened At The Cemetery


Middle of destroyed stained glass window
in the Old St Anthony's Mortuary

No fairer autumn day than yesterday could have been arranged for the ceremony of the blessing of the Crucifixion group and the Mortuary Chapel recent­ly erected at St. Anthony’s cemetery. Promptly at 3 o’clock the Rev. Fathers of the parish, Fathers James, Herman and Prosper, with several altar boys arrived at the cemetery and the ceremony began. Following prayers a pro­cession was formed, the clergy, the altar boys, the choir and the people falling into line. It seemed as if half the city and country had turned out for the great event, for as the beginning of the procession returned to the starting point the end of the procession was just leaving, that point. It was a most imposing spectacle, and as this immense crowd of people sang and answered the chanting of litanies and prayers by the priests the scene was very impressive. As the procession wended its way through the cemetery Rev. Father James blessed the graves, and after the procession was over he blessed the Crucifixion group.

The Crucifixion group, a magnificent piece of work in white cement made by the Deprato Statutary company, Of Chicago, has just been erected at the en­trance to St. Anthony’s cemetery. The Crucifix, the central figure, is 11 feet high and the other figures of St. John, the Blessed Virgin and Mary Magdalene are 5 feet in height. The group stands on a base of white cement,5 feet by 3 inches, the whole having a splendid cement foundation.

The Mortuary chapel fills a long felt need at the cemetery. It is built of cement blocks, with slate roof and cement floors, the interior being finish­ed In.hardwood. It Is divided into three apartments: a morgue, a tool room, and a rest room and a verandah runs along the front and one side of the building.

The fact that this work has been completed so satisfactorily has been a source of much gratification to Rev. Father James, who for years has had in view the improvement of the cemetery.

--Chatham Daily Planet Oct. 6, 1913

The Broken Stained Glass Window Inside
The Old St Anthony's Mortuary

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