WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
People came to pray for their fathers in Holy Cross Mausoleum on Father's Day, June 16, after enjoying a hot dog barbecue in the cemetery outside.
At Holy Cross Cemetery on Father's Day they offered a Fat Frank's jumbo hot dog with all the trimmings and a drink for free. There were few takers in the first 20 minutes as people didn't want to get wet.
But as soon as the sun returned, dozens took up the offer and munched happily while looking at the well-landscaped grounds or chatting with family and friends.
At some points, there were long lineups in front of the hot dog stand. "This is such a good idea," said a woman as she ate her hot dog while sitting under an open tent.
This was the first time Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries celebrated Father's Day with a hotdog barbecue.
Deacon Paul Croteau, director of Catholic Cemeteries, said he got the idea from a young woman who had lost her dad and her husband and wanted to bring sandwiches into the mausoleum because she liked to have picnics with her children.
"I thought for Father's Day why don't we have a hotdog barbecue to invite families to come out and have a hotdog with their fathers but also honour our deceased fathers?"
Croteau then called up some associates for support and Connelly-McKinley Funeral Homes, Alberta Wilbert Sales and Edmonton Granite Memorials agreed to help sponsor the event.
Gerry Connelly, the Catholic owner of Connelly-McKinley Funeral Homes, said his company agreed to support the Father's Day Barbecue because "we have been serving the Catholic community since 1908 and we've always had a great relationship with the Church."
The hotdog barbecue, Connelly explained, is a nice way to welcome families that come out to the cemetery to honour their deceased fathers on Father's Day. He said it may become an annual event which should be held for Mother's Day too beginning next year.
The hotdog stand closed after two hours, in time for a 2 p.m. prayer service in the mausoleum's chapel with Croteau presiding.
"It's really a nice touch," said Teresa Churchill as she and her nephew Phillip Leeking, 23, were leaving the hotdog stand. The pair was visiting Churchill's dad, Colin Churchill, who died in 1992.
"He was a very social and open person who would welcome anybody," she said. "That's what I remember about him. He was very jovial."
Darcy Butterworth and her husband Doug were visiting Darcy's dad Terry McFarland who died eight years ago at age 58. "He was always very generous and he liked hotdogs on Sundays; so this idea of serving hotdogs here is an awesome idea," she smiled.
Hotdog in hand, Patricia Zen of Sherwood Park said the hotdog barbecue was a "really nice idea." She and her son Zario, 11, were at Holy Cross visiting her husband Carlo Zen, who died nine years ago, and her father-in-law Luigi Zen, who died a year ago.
"He was a funny man," Patricia said of Luigi. "He liked to tell jokes and knew how to keep his grandchildren entertained." As for Carlo, "he was a wonderful husband and a wonderful dad."
Renee DeSilva is the young woman who inspired Croteau to organize the barbecue. Alan, the father of her two small children, died just three months ago in a car accident at age 30. Her dad, Ronnie Nicolas, died May 29, 2002 at age 49. DeSilva's mom and her grandpa are also resting at Holy Cross.
"Lots of family members are here," she smiled.
Being Father's Day, dad Ronnie was in DeSilva's mind that day.
"He was very goofy and funny and he always knew how to have fun," she recalled. "He was just a comedian. He had really bad dad jokes that he thought were funny but they weren't, you know," DeSilva said, laughing loudly. "That was one of my fun memories of him; he was just so silly."
Father's Day is a hard day for those who have lost their dad and it is nice to have yummy food to gather around, DeSilva said of the barbecue. "It's a nice touch. It's always good to gather around good food."
At the prayer service, Croteau remembered his own father, a truck driver who died at age 46 and is buried in section four. "I get sad on days like this, just like you do," he said. "He was younger than I am right now."
Croteau said he remembers his father's hands because they were rough and many times he used them to bless his behind or the side of his head. "I probably deserved it," he said to laughter from the congregation.
Even though his father's hands would punish Croteau, he remembers how at times those same hands would become gentle as his dad would hold him when he was hurting.
The Heavenly Father has also slapped Croteau on the side of his head on occasion "but in his own way he is gentle with me too," the deacon said. "So I'm comforted and I hope you are comforted too as we have a Heavenly Father who mentor us."