History

Death in the Cemetery

Death in the Cemetery | Alex Inspired

It’s unusual for me to write about young tragedies, but this particularly dark story got me thinking about the many unpleasantries in our city which become concealed and forgotten over the years. In my quest for some information on J.J. Carrick, I stumbled across an article from 1933 detailing a tragic accident which occurred in Riverside Cemetery.

Death in the Cemetery: Here’s how the story unfolds…

The year, 1933.

A young mother and her 3 year old daughter are tending to the grave of her dearly departed husband at Riverside Cemetery.ย While the widow is busy planting, the young girl wanders the grounds.

Somewhere between wandering away from her mother, the young girl engages in play with another child. Tragedy strikes when a headstone falls, pinning the 3 year old beneath it. It is unknown if the other child accidentally pushed on the headstone or if it came loose while they were playing.

Screams of anguished gain the attention of a young man, who proceeds to lift the 100 pound headstone off the small body. The girl is rushed to St. Joseph Hospital, where she is pronounced dead – fractured skull.

Riverside Cemetery - Thunder Bay

This story made headlines in several papers, including the Port Arthur News Chronicle and the Winnipeg Tribune.

I did some digging to learn a little bit more about this particular family.ย The grave the wife and child were tending to was that of Armas Sandstrom, a Shoemaker. He died on November 20th, 1932 and was only 28 years old. Armas and his wife were Finnish Immigrants who had only lived in Port Arthur for three years.

Sadly, Armas’ death could have been prevented had he lived in the pre-antibiotic era. His registration of death information lists he died from a lung abscess, which is defined as “necrosis of the pulmonary tissue and formation of cavities containing necrotic debris or fluid caused by microbial infection”. In the 1920s and 1930s, one third of patients died from this disease. After the discovery and use of penicillin and tetracycline, deaths decreased and patient recovery was possible.

How sad for this Mother. Within a year she buries her husband and only months later, her daughter.

Interestingly enough, I tried to find the headstone of Armas, but was unsuccessful. In fact, I could not locate either his or his daughter’s. Is that creepy? and yes, I did go check the big book at Brodie Street Library.

You never know what kind of arbitrary tragedy lurks within our city, especially ones within a cemetery.


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