The sky was overcast over Montague White-Fraser’s grave in Agassiz’s Old Cemetery, but more than 60 people officers came out to celebrate the fact that there was a grave for the clouds to hang over.
The former Agassiz resident and Northwest Mounted Police officer had been buried in the Old Cemetery with his wife in 1927, but didn’t have enough money to afford a headstone. For 92 years, White-Fraser’s grave went unmarked next to his wife’s monument.
On Saturday (July 13), Agassiz residents, officials, RCMP veterans and police officers came together to celebrate the two years of hard work that ended with the RCMP giving a former serviceman his grave marker.
“The greatness of a culture is marked by speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, and that’s never more true than being here today,” chaplain Jim Turner said during the service. “Today marks the completion of this recognition of the service of Insp. Montague Henry White-Fraser.”
The ceremony was short and quiet: members of the honour guard in red serge gave a salute to White-Fraser’s memory, and RCMP Veterans Association director Ric Hall outlined the history of White-Fraser’s life.
White-Fraser had worked with the Northwest Mounted Police throughout western Canada for 13 years before he retired. Later moving to Agassiz, and losing his beloved wife Elizabeth, he fell into poverty and died with barely enough money to cover his funeral expenses.
“There wasn’t a single penny left in his estate to afford him even a modest headstone for his final resting place,” Hall said. “And that’s what brings us here today.”
Mayor Sylvia Pranger also spoke at the service, and thanked many of the people who had worked to get White-Fraser a headstone. But she also thanked one person privately before the ceremony: Linda Shephard, who had worked for more than two years researching White-Fraser and striving to get him a marker for his grave.
“You know why,” Pranger said to Shephard as she handed her a bouquet of flowers before the ceremony. “For all your hard work.”
“Without your research, it wouldn’t have happened.”
During the Saturday ceremony, Sgt. Bruce Coulter played Lochober’s Lament on the bagpipes — a tribute to White-Fraser’s burial service 92 years ago, when he asked for that same song to be played by his graveside.
Later, when attendees had made their way up to White-Fraser’s grave on the hillside of the Old Cemetery, Coulter took out his bagpipes again. The sounds of the music drifted over the Old Cemetery, just as it had done 92 years ago.