The cemetery opened in 1901 and the first burial was 7 month old baby Clarence Reardon in 1902. Since Federation Springvale cemetery has played a leading role in the history of cremation in Australia. The first legal cremation in Victoria took place in the cemetery in 1905, Edward Davies is interred in the C of E section. Because cremation was cheaper than burial it became more popular from the Great Depression years of the 1930s. Certainly my dad’s family were working class so it perhaps explains why John was cremated.
According to their website, Springvale, with its advanced crematorium and series of chapels, is renowned for its botanical significance, and has the largest memorial rose gardens in Australia and approximately 80,000 trees. The site now covers 169 hectares or 422 acres, and it is estimated that there have been 390,000 cremations and 139,000 burials.
My Auntie Margaret had said that Grandpa Mitchell was buried in Springvale, Victoria but I had no idea where? And Harold Lilja’s whereabouts were a complete unknown. It was bad enough not knowing them in their lives, but I couldn’t let this year go by without paying my respects.
To my delight I discovered that Springvale has the largest crematorium and memorial park in Victoria and describes itself as a world class botanical cemetery – magnificent, diverse, historically and culturally rich, according to their website. And that my paternal grandfather, John Mitchell, was resting there.
I spent a lovely couple of hours there on Friday afternoon searching for my John Mitchell. Even though I had his location listed as the Cassia Rose Garden, Wall S, Niche 411, it was not straight forward finding his plaque. The afternoon was quite warm and the scent of roses permeated the air. I had come so far to find him and it looked at first that I would be unsuccessful. Unbeknownst to me I had wondered into the Banksia Rose Garden instead of Cassia! So back to the office I went.
I don’t know what I expected to find but perhaps not quite such a simple plaque with just his name, birth date and death date. And I hadn’t thought to search for my grandmother Elsie’s resting place before leaving Sydney so the best surprise of all was finding her right alongside John. Elsie died in 1972 when I was only 17.
There were so many trees, fountains and quiet places for contemplation that I didn’t feel as though I was in a cemetery at all. And during my ramble looking for John’s resting place I found two fallen red roses with the most indescribable scent. They are with me now. Rest in peace John and Elsie.