Tracy Holmes photo Sean and Trevor Crean reflect on memories of their grandfather, Jack Turner. The senior is to be the first interment at the Crean’s new cemetery, Heritage Gardens in South Surrey.

New cemetery could be ‘time capsule’ of community, owner says

Heritage Gardens opened in South Surrey Sept. 22

Trevor Crean remembers that “nothing felt right” when it came to finding his grandfather Jack Turner’s final resting place, after the 85-year-old lost his battle with cancer.

So Crean, now 33, kept the dark-blue urn that held the seniors’ ashes at his own home.

Fast-forward five years, and Crean’s family has found a place that they can’t help but feel is perfect for their patriarch – Heritage Gardens. Opened in South Surrey late last month, it is the family’s new cemetery, and Turner is to be the first to be interred.

The cemetery grew from a desire to create a sustainable and affordable way to help families stay together after death.

READ MORE: New South Surrey cemetery ‘aims to keep families together’

Situated on 8.5 acres in the 19000-block of 16 Avenue – the former site of Huckleberry Farm & Garden Centre – the concept took root after Crean’s father, Tom, sold his interest in the family-owned Kearney Funeral Services two years ago to other family members.

The process that followed was eye-opening, Crean said, referring to challenges including rezoning and other steps required in order the development to proceed, and the time involved.

“It was a learning curve,” he said.

Obstacles included unexpected costs associated with restoring a 2.5-acre section of the property to its natural state, which was given to the city. The removal of non-native plant species was a city requirement for the subdivision, but, despite quotes, the cost ended up being exponentially over what was budgeted, Crean said.

The contractor “was off by over half a million (dollars). It really stopped the bus in its tracks.”

Beavers, said Crean, were the biggest winners in that process – they ate all of the saplings that were planted as part of the restoration.

Another “kick in the shins” was the irrigation system, he said. Specifically, discovering after spending a “small fortune” for the required hook-up to the city’s system that the water pressure for the property is about half that in the rest of the city’s system.

Still, Heritage Gardens opened for business on Sept. 22.

Crean said around 220 plots have been sold and a “couple” of faith groups have reserved sections for their members. The ‘Sampaguita Garden’ is about 320 plots reserved to honour members of the Filipino community; three Orthodox churches have also reserved space.

Crean said part of his family’s vision for the cemetery is for it to be a “museum” of sorts; a reflection of the wide spectrum of cultures and traditions in the community.

“We just want people to re-imagine what a cemetery could be. We can be the time capsule that represents all of these memories and traditions.”

The facility’s ‘green’ burial section has received “quite a lot” of interest, Crean added. Slated to open next year, it is space for those who want to lay their loved ones to rest without the use of vaults, caskets or embalming.

Another aspect of the cemetery is an ossuary – a large sphere buried on the property where a family can more affordably place cremated remains. Crean estimates the sphere can hold up to 1,100 such remains.

He hopes to place Turner’s urn under an oak tree on the property this week.

Surveying the site earlier this month, Crean and his brother Sean reflected on quality time with their grandfather, who they described as a “strong man” who told “hundreds” of stories, and taught them “all I need to know about fishing, cleaning my room, making my bed.”

The brothers are confident Turner would approve of the family’s new venture, and of their plans to make him part of it.

“I think he’d be proud of us,” Trevor Crean said.

“He was there our whole lives. Even after he passed away, he’s been at these major milestones,” he said, referring to events to which he has brought his grandfather’s ashes.

“He’s still with us.”

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Sean and Trevor Crean at the gate to Heritage Gardens, a new co-operative cemetery in South Surrey. (Tracy Holmes photo)

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