McMichael Gallery Cemetery, Kleinburg

Non-denominational

York Region

Ontario

The McMichael cemetery is the final resting place for six members of the Group of Seven, their spouses, and the gallery’s founders, Robert and Signe McMichael. In his book, One Man’s Obsession, Robert McMichael recalls receiving a letter from Jackson in 1967, in which the artist expressed a hope to be buried near Kleinburg. A few months later, while Jackson and Casson were visiting the McMichaels, the idea of a memorial cemetery for members of the Group of Seven began to take shape. In the spring of 1968, Jackson fell seriously ill and the need for a burial ground on the gallery premises became pressing. The McMichaels had to select an appropriate location for the cemetery that would be accessible, yet quiet and dignified. They soon settled on a small grassy knoll with views of the river valleys, the woods, the Tom Thomson Shack and the distant roofs of the gallery. Later, the McMichaels arranged to have the Department of Highways bring carefully selected slabs of granite, blasted during road building in the artists’ beloved north country, to the site. They were carved by Canadian sculptor E.B. Cox, and used as grave markers.

The chronological development of the cemetery is as follows:

  • Arthur Lismer (1885‐1969): Lismer died in Montreal, Quebec on March 23, 1969 and was brought to Kleinburg for burial on April 25, 1969. His wife Esther (1879‐1976) was buried with him.
  • Frederick Horsman Varley (1881‐1969): Varley died on September 8, 1969, was cremated on September 13 and interred the following week.
  • Lawren Stewart Harris (1885‐1970): Harris died in Vancouver, British Columbia on January 29, 1970 and was cremated. His ashes, along with those of his wife, Bess (1889‐1969), were interred at the McMichael on March 20, 1970.
  • Alexander Young Jackson (1882‐1974): Jackson died on April 5, 1974 and was buried in a graveside service on April 8, 1974.
  • Frank Johnston (1888‐1949): Johnston died July 9, 1949 and was originally buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. He was disinterred and reinterred at the McMichael on March 13, 1975. His wife, Florence, is buried with him.
  • Alfred Joseph Casson (1898‐1992): Casson died on February 19, 1992 in Toronto and was buried on February 20, 1992. His wife, Margaret (1900‐1992) is buried with him.
  • Robert McMichael (1921‐2003): Robert McMichael died on November 18, 2003 and was buried on November 24 following visitation and a funeral service at the gallery.
  • Signe McMichael (1921‐2007): Signe McMichael died on July 4, 2007. The gallery was closed for visitation and a funeral held on July 9, 2007.
Follow Stephanie Allen:

I learned my love of “spirit walking” from my Mother, Barbara Ann Scott. My Mum was an avid genealogist who spent many days in cemeteries in Ontario, Quebec and Scotland. I joined my Mother on many of these research visits and found that I was really moved by some of the inscriptions, the dates and trends. I realized that much could be learned about the local history of an area by examining the cemeteries. I have continued to be inspired to visit cemeteries in communities even if I don’t know anyone who is interred there. I have stumbled upon former Canadian Prime Ministers, artists and athletes. I have also discovered many small communities and vanished villages near and far from home. This web site is about acknowledging the many great Canadians who shaped the Canada I know.

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