July 6, 2007

Woodlands Memorial Garden opens

Arthur Thomas Davis had epilepsy. In the 1920s he was committed to the Woodlands Institution, a residential hospital for the developmentally challenged and people with mental disabilities.

Davis died there in the 1930s and he was buried at the Woodlands Cemetery with 3000 deceased patients from Essondale (now Riverview), the Colony Farm facility for the elderly, and Woodlands.

Jump decades ahead. Woodlands became a residential school for children with mental disabilities. As determined in a 2002 report, the students were subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse.

In this period, hospital administrators decided to remove headstones. The headstones were tossed into a ravine or used to pave a picnic patio for staff. For many, the memory of the cemetery is forgotten.

Then the school was shut down. An oral history project was started by Simon Fraser University. Former patients and staff talked about a lost cemetery. The information spurred a patient family and survivor group to find out who was buried where.

Arthur Thomas Davis' descendants and other patient families began to lobby the provincial government to address the desecration of the cemetery. Erik Lees, landscape and memorial designer, took on the job restoring the site.

Davis' headstone was found and set with 600 other headstones into a series of plinths and memory walls and a garden is built.

On June 22, the Woodlands Memorial Garden officially opened and the descendants of Davis gave VBD a tour.

No comments:

Post a Comment