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An Unforeseen Happening at Necropolis Cemetery

By Jerry Derich. Published in the Huron County Branch Ontario Genealogical Society Volume 25, No. 2, May 2004

August 20, 2003. I met with Tony and Matt Markovich , John Benko, and Stan Kelar for our weekly meeting at 10 AM. This day we met at a restaurant on the east side of Broadview just south of the Danforth Ave. The meetings began over a year ago. The purpose of the meetings was to become reacquainted, talk about our youth and have a general discussion of whatever. Afterwards that morning Stan, Tony and Matt had planned to explore Danforth Ave. John is not into taking long walks so he left. I went back to my car at the Loblaws parking to retrieve some pears I had picked for the boys that morning. It was during that time I decided to visit my grand uncles William Carter’s grave site. I gave them the pears and went on my way This is something I had wanted to do for some time. Since I was in the vicinity and by myself it would work out well. I drove down Broadview Ave and around the Don Jail onto Gerrard St. and turned north on Sumach St. My uncle is buried in Necropolis cemetery which is opposite Riverdale farm on Winchester St. The street by Necropolis cemetery was jammed with cars so I drove into the deserted cemetery which was quiet and cool under the old large shady trees. Necropolis is one of the older cemeteries in Toronto. I drove to the far side of the cemetery and parked. Uncle William was buried in a remote location in the cemetery. At the spot called the “valley scattering area” . To reach uncle’s grave site you have to walk down a steep grade over the tops of graves. When you reach the bottom you turn right. At that spot you are in a relatively narrow enclosure. A 30 foot embankment guards one side and the other sides are fenced in and rimmed with large shady trees blocking out light and creating total isolation. It was quiet and eerie! I walked along the fence searching for the Carter grave stone in quiet isolation gazing down at the head stones one by one of those who had died so many years ago. Eventually I stumbled across the Carter head stone which was obscured by branches hanging very low over and around the stone completely isolating the view of the grave site. I began bending the branch limbs backward until they snapped. The snapping sounded extra loud in such a quiet place. I hoped nobody would hear the noise and come to investigate the disturbance. After I cleared the obstructions from around the grave site I stood in front of my Uncle’s grave and spoke to uncle William. His grave had not been visited in quite some time and I was thinking of how to keep his memory alive. Shortly after I began to retrace my steps. Just as I reached the incline I met a man coming down the slope toward me. I spoke first asking him, who he was visiting. His reply shocked me when he said “I live here“. He explained that he was a homeless person and that he did not actually live in the cemetery but just on the opposite side of the fence. I asked him how he managed to get on the other side of the fence. He said he was able to get to the other side by means of a hole in the fence; but he was not about to reveal the location of the opening to the other side.

The location of William Carter's gravestone. Toronto Necropolis Cemetery (valley scattering area)

William John Carter, born Dec.20, 1860; died March 9, 1934. Loving maternal uncle and father figure to Irene Jessie (McBrady) Derich

I then went on to explain my reason for visiting the cemetery. I told him that my grand uncle William Carter was buried beside the fence. I went on to tell him how William had died when I was 2 years old . William was the only relative other than my mother and father who had loved me, held me and played with me. (as told to me by my mother). My mother Jessie was raised by her maternal aunt Mary and Mary’s brother William. My mother was the last close tie to William. William never had any children. The memory of William would be lost forever unless I take steps to ensure his memory lives on.

I turned my attention to this homeless man. I did not want to ask him his name but I asked him a few questions. He looked like he was in his early 40’s good looking, with a slim build. He was about 150 pounds and 5 ft. 8 inches tall. He was neat, clean, sober and did not smell. He had a tattoo and track marks on his arm. He said he was raised and went to school in North York. He dropped out of high school when in his teens. He was proud that he had returned to high school at the age of 25 and received his grade 12 diploma. He said he had been married and had two children but alcohol had destroyed his marriage. He pointed to places on his body were he claimed to have tumours but said that they were not cancerous I mentioned that he looked healthy and should get his life together or he would make an early exit and become a permanent resident on this side of the fence. He remarked “that would not be all that bad as I will not have to complain anymore“.

I wished him luck . We shook hands, turned and walked in opposite directions. Slipping out of sight I watched him. He located the opening in the fence and went thru to the other side of the fence. He walked toward a clump of trees which must have been his home. Walking back up the incline toward my car I thought I should have introduced him to William’s grave site. William and the homeless man were sleeping 30 ft. apart.

My niece Susan Payne received my story about the homeless man in Necropolis Cemetery and I was surprised by her response…. How very interesting, thanks for sharing. Now I'll add a little to your story...... I often drive by the cemetery to go downtown, taking Rosedale Valley Road. A small portion of Necropolis Cemetery where Uncle William is buried backs onto a ravine which is beside Rosedale Valley Road There are homeless men that sit at the corner of the Bayview extension Road and Rosedale Valley Road with a sign asking for change. Last summer I was at the red light, window down and decided to give the guy some change. He was very polite and friendly. Throughout the summer every time I drove by I would give the guy some change or if I knew I was going to be going by I would buy a drink and some fruit or something and give it to him. I asked him his name one day and we talked. His name was Craig, he lived in the woods by the cemetery and had been on the street for a while and was even attacked by another homeless person with a knife and showed me the stab mark in his arm. I haven't seen him this summer but there are others that sit in his place. I'm sure one of them is the man you met in the cemetery.