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Mt. Pleasant & Oakland Cemeteries A Place of History, Nature, Tranquility and Caring
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By Rick Vandekieft – Christian Life in London Publisher

Mount Pleasant Cemetery is nestled on a beautiful 65-acre oasis with the northern part of the grounds reaching Oxford St West and Riverside Drive to the South. Crossing through the wrought-iron gates there is an immediate sense of peace and tranquility as the beauty of the giant Cooper Beech tree towers before you. The tree is the beacon of the cemetery majestically changing with the seasons but always welcoming.

Mt. Pleasant was established in 1875, 20 years after the City of London was incorporated. There are almost 57,000 people interred at Mt. Pleasant but a walk through the older sections will reveal monuments that pre-date 1875. Some of the older burials on the property were relocated from church cemeteries many years ago.

Mt Pleasant has three Veterans sections. Any person who served in the Armed Forces is eligible to be interred in the Mt. Pleasant Veterans Section. Thirty-five years ago the rules changed which allowed for the spouse of the Veteran to be interred in the same grave. This means that one of the two would need to be cremated to share the grave. 

Mt. Pleasant also has Columbariums dedicated to Veterans, believed to be the only Veterans Columbariums in this area.

In the early 80’s Mt. Pleasant took over the operations at Oakland Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in London, established in 1855. The Mt Pleasant team developed and implemented an extensive plan for the Oakland property. The plan was completed and Oakland Cemetery reopened in 1995.

Oakland Cemetery sits on 9 acres just west of the Mt Pleasant on Oxford St West. The number of people interred there is estimated to be around 900. Yes, it’s just an estimation because the burial records for the cemetery were destroyed in a house fire many years ago.

Among the interred at Oakland; John Craig, 1818 – 1857, London’s 1st Fire Chief. Col. James Moffat 1819-1894 London’ Mayor for 1860 term and Robert Reid 1822 – 1900 one of the founders of London Life.

On a beautiful May afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting Linda Fitches, the General Manager of Mount Pleasant & Oakland Cemeteries at the Mt. Pleasant property.

In the 142 year history of Mt Pleasant Cemetery Linda is the longest serving General Manager leading the team for 28 years.

I asked Linda why she chose a career with a cemetery.

She chuckled when she answered, “I saw an ad in the paper for a Bookkeeper/Receptionist so I called the number and found out the job was at a cemetery. After hanging up the phone I just kept thinking, ‘Do I want to work at a cemetery? What would a person do working in an office at a cemetery?’”

She took the job, making her the second in the staff of two. She quickly found out that the job at a cemetery office was a full time busy job but, as quickly, she realized how gratifying the work was.

In 1989, the General Manager at the time K. MacKenzie Tilden announced he was retiring and while Linda had no prior aspirations for the GM job, she knew the job inside out as it was just a two-person office. She had worked closely with Mr. Tilden sharing in many of the responsibilities. So instead of training a new GM, the Board of Directors agreed that she would be the new General Manager.

Today she leads of staff of 6, in the office (total of 13 including the grounds then extra in the summer) “We are all very close as we have worked together for a long time. Some us have worked together here for over 20 years. We are always here for each other.”

Linda continued, “This is a very interesting and demanding business yet it is filled with enormous satisfaction of helping people with respect and dignity during the most difficult times in their lives.

“Mt Pleasant is different than the profit driven funeral homes and cemeteries. Our Board of directors are non-paid and we are under no pressure to sell. Some places work on a commission basis but I just couldn’t work under those conditions. We do offer urns, monuments and other additional services. They are available but we never promote them.”

I asked Linda about the changes she has witnessed during her time at Mt Pleasant.

“In 1980 we arranged for 149 cremations, just a small percentage of the internments at Mt Pleasant. This peaked a few years ago when we arranged for just over 1500 in a year.”

According to the Cremation Association of North America, in 1970 less than 6% of Ontario residents choose cremation. By 2020 that number is expected to be over 74%.

“Another very significant change took place in 2012 when legislation was passed that allowed cemeteries and funeral homes to be combined. This led to many changes in our business and needed to reexamine the services we offered. First of all we expanded our Chapel and reception Centre. The Chapel can accommodate 70 people for a memorial service with the adjacent reception area it can accommodate 100 people. We can arrange to have the receptions catered as well.

“New this year is our Transfer Service. Now families can arrange their direct cremation or direct burial with Mt Pleasant Cemetery. We will bring the deceased into our care, then meet with the Executor and family to gain the necessary information, signatures and discuss the burial or cremation arrangements. This is a basic service that has significant cost difference from a traditional funeral.”

Linda stresses that if the Transfer Service is selected, the families can be assured of that their loved one will be cared for with the same respect, compassion and dignity as with the more elaborate service.

We took a few minutes to discuss some of the more unusual services during her time at Mt Pleasant. “As Cremations have become more popular, we do see more non-traditional alternatives to urns. In one case a cookie jar was used and an ice-skate in another. At the funeral of a motorcyclist, the ashes were contained in a cleaned out gas tank from a bike. Another was a very large service with what seemed to be an endless line of motorcycles. I have never seen so many bikes and on the anniversary of this funeral, many of the bikers come back year after year.”

When asked what is the most important advice she gives to people about funeral planning. “Most important advice is that the best time to plan a funeral is when you don’t need it,” says Linda, Family need to talk to each other, know what each other want. Of course money is often an issue but it is comforting to know that the money provided by the government may be enough to cover the costs of the Transfer Service.

“Something else I urge people to consider when they have decided on cremation is what will happen to the ashes? It is so common that the ashes are distributed on land or water that holds special meaning. But then, for many, there a void. Where do the family members and friends go to pay their respects?”

As the interview was coming to an end, I asked Linda, “At the end of a day what makes you smile and think to yourself, that was a good day”.

“Most days are good and it starts with the beauty of this place, the nature. And I work with such wonderful people all with the same desire to help and comfort those that come to us. I really do love my job.”

To arrange a tour or for more information please click HERE to visit the web site of:

Mount Pleasant & Oakland Cemeteries
Transfer Service – Crematorium
Chapel – Reception Centre
303 Riverside Drive