Port Moody will look for ways to keep its dead closer to home.
At its meeting Nov. 10, city council tasked staff to identify possible locations and costs for the installation and maintenance of columbaria somewhere in the city.
A columbaria is a collection of memorial walls, or columbarium, in which urns of loved ones’ ashes can be placed in niches. It’s often complemented with a garden where some ashes can also be scattered.
Coun. Steve Milani, who proposed Pioneer Memorial Park — in front of Port Moody’s recreation complex — as a suitable location, said it’s time the city provide a place where residents can spend eternity and their loved ones don’t have to travel to pay them a visit.
Port Moody has never had a cemetery.
Jim Millar, the director of Port Moody Station Museum, said the city’s historical ties to nearby New Westminster sent many families to that community’s Fraser cemetery to bury their dead. Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam have their own municipal burial grounds.
But Milani said the absence of a cemetery in Port Moody deprives residents of an important connection to the city’s past as well as their own family histories.
“You can tell how long a community has been here, and what it’s been through,” he said.
Milani said the longtime oversight has taken on renewed urgency as he’s become aware of several residents who are hanging on to urns filled with the ashes of a loved one because they’ve no place to put them permanently.
One of those residents, Jan Voss, who’s lived in Port Moody for more than 20 years, said the urn of ashes from his late wife, Jen, is still in his home because the city lacks a burial facility and other communities impose restrictions on non-residents accessing their facilities.
“I hope someday in the future I’ll be able to lay her to rest in Port Moody,” he said.
Milani said talking about death is often a difficult and sensitive subject. But its inevitability means we’ll all have to confront it at some point.
In a report he prepared for council, Milani said a memorial facility should easily be able to recover its costs. He said typical fees for placing an urn of remains in a niche of a columbarium in communities like Radium Hot Springs, West Vancouver and Port Coquitlam range from $1,400 to $3,193.
He said having a centrally located place where residents can mourn loved ones, or reflect on their time together, is a part of any community’s social fabric,
“It creates a complete community,” Milani said.