Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mount Pleasant Cemetery - William Barker Monument

It may seem strange to say that a cemetery is one of our favourite locations for biking or taking a stroll, but this is not your typical cemetery.  Spanning from Yonge St to Bayview Avenue just north of St. Clair Ave, Mount Pleasant Cemetery has miles of flat paved roads interweaving tombs and graves, and is known for its vast and varied collection of trees.  From cherry blossoms and magnolias in the spring to magnificent fall colours in the autumn, a tour through the cemetery is a visual delight.

One of my favourite areas in the cemetery is the Garden of Remembrance which provides a setting of natural beauty to for cremation burials.  With features named "Pool of Reflection", "Eternal Gardens", "River of Memories", "Gateway of Hope", "Forest of Remembrance", this seems like such a peaceful final resting place and a comforting setting for loved ones to visit.

I love sculptures and there are no shortage of them in the cemetery.  It is like a treasure hunt to ride our bikes around to spot interesting ones.  While angels and religious images are common, there are also more personal sculptures.  One tire magnate has a large tire as his tombstone while another grave has a golf ball as the centerpiece, giving insight into the former passion of the deceased.

Steve Stavros' tomb is an entire resume of his career.  At the top is a huge statue of Alexander the Great, a metaphor for Steve who was also Macedonian?  Around the tomb, there are plaques representing Knob Hill Farms, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and his prize race horse amongst others.

Canadian dynasties such as Eaton and Massey have their own massive mausoleums.  The resting place for the Eaton family is guarded by bronze lions while the beautiful Massey family (think Massey Hall) crypt has a turret and gorgeous stained glass inside.

There are many other notable people buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery including former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, pianist Glenn Gould, doctors Banting and Best, Alexander Muir who wrote "The Maple Leaf Forever".  There are historic tours of the cemetery that take you around to the famous sites.  We took one a while back that was led by historian Mike Filey.  Unfortunately he spent alot of the walk trying to market his latest book.

In September 2011, William Barker, one of Canada's most famous war heroes was finally given a prominent monument marking his resting place.  Barker was the most decorated Canadian war hero, who won the Victoria Cross in WWI for single-handedly attacking 60 German aircraft and shooting down 5.   The monument which sits in front of the mausoleum where he is buried consists of a bronzed replica of the propeller of a 1918 Sopwith Snipe, the type of plane Barker flew.  Inside the mausoleum where Barker is iterred in his wife's family crypt, another plaque marks his resting spot.  Inside the crypt is proudly displayed the Canadian flag and a black and white photo of Barker with his plane.   It was heartwarming to see our national hero finally get the permanent public tribute that he deserves.

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