Former residents devote time and expense to provide care at rural cemetery

When Barry and Doris Rudy of Yorkton still lived on a farm in the Kamsack area, they would often be visited by Barry’s uncle Anton Form who would stop in after having “looked after the cemetery.”

In the 1990s, Anton moved from Kamsack to Yorkton, but still maintained an interest in Valley View Cemetery, located on a scenic hillside about five miles west of Runnymede where the Assiniboine River cuts a valley into the terrain.

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Both Anton (Skip) Rudy and his sister Melvina (nee Formuziewich), who was Barry’s mother, died in December 2018, and when it came time for their burial at Valley View, Barry and Doris discovered that because Anton had no longer been tending the cemetery, it had been neglected and had become overgrown.

“Mom and I used to come here, because her parents are buried here,” Barry said last week as he and Doris were at the cemetery busy with the riding mower and weed-wacker.

Barry and Doris had decided to rectify the situation, and after the site was cleaned up for the burial, the couple decided to “look after the cemetery,” as Barry’s uncle had done.

“We come out three or four times a year to cut the grass,” Barry said.

“We bought the mower, trailer to haul it in and the other equipment specially to do this work,” Doris added.

Anton was interested in the cemetery’s upkeep because his parents, Michael and Bernice (nee Paradoski) Formuziewich are buried there, Barry said, explaining that they were his grandparents.

In addition to cutting the grass, Barry has spent time and effort straightening some of the headstones that had begun to lean, and he explained how with a chain attached to a vehicle, a monument could be straightened. He did that work with their son from Winnipeg and their daughter’s boyfriend.

“The RM of Cote dropped off a load of gravel that we used to fill in spots that have sunk,” he said.

Barry and Doris have cleaned an outdoor biffy that was on the site, nestled among the trees that line the cemetery, and make sure that it is supplied with paper for use of visitors.

“We counted a total of 63 graves,” Barry said, adding that he suspects that at a previous time some of the bodies were moved to other cemeteries, like in Kamsack, and the stones that had marked those graves are scattered in the bush alongside.

Although many of the names on the headstones are in Cyrillic script or Ukrainian language, many are in English, and the Rudys were particularly interested in noting how many of the headstones were for infants, who died in the early 20th century.

The cemetery is not part of a church as are many, Barry said, adding that from the headstones it appears as though deceased people of various faiths share the site.

At the entrance to the cemetery, under a wroght iron sign saying “Valley View Cemetery,” is a plaque that reads: “Valley View Cemetery, 1908. Land donated by George and Pauline Sobestianowich and Wasil and Anne Rabchak.”

Among other names on the headstones are: Shasko, Sokoloski, Toffan, Cherkas, Nickolizin (1862-1925), Pishko (1875-1951), Stephan Kulczycki, Sam Novitski (1905-1992), John Martyniuk, and Hrabchak (Wassill 1853-1930 and Anna 1860-1943).

On a tour of the site, Doris pointed to how ornate and well-crafted many of the headstones were, especially those that were erected a century ago.

“It would be great if other relatives of people buried here would think about helping keep this cemetery in a good condition,” Barry said.