The moss-covered headstones tell visitors to the Drumheller, Alta. cemetery that no one has tended to the graves of veterans for decades.
It’s something Eric Dahl noticed about a month ago and wanted to change.
“When was the last time that anyone walked past these stones?”
Known for random acts of kindness in the community, Dahl is now cleaning every single final resting place by hand.
“To show these veterans, to show veterans we have alive today that I do truly honour them, November 11 is every day,” Dahl said.
The work is hard and he’s not cutting any corners, describing his technique as “military precision.”
Dahl says that’s the way these vets would have done it themselves.
“There’s sometimes where I can do 10 or 15 (a day); there’s some days when I can do one or two.”
Calling Drumheller home for over 30 years, Dahl has been out of work since March.
But his work in the cemetery has given him a lot of peace and is drawing a lot of attention from the community—not only on Main Street, but online.
Dahl says he appreciates the praise, but he’s not doing it for recognition.
“To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have cared if anyone noticed,” he said. “I’m continuing on with what I’m doing for me.”
Charlotte Chernoff’s grandfather was buried in the cemetery when he passed away in 1981.
Private Wilfred Teeple’s grave is one of many Dahl has already cleaned up.
“No one else has ever thought of this,” she said. “All the years that these men and women have been in here, no one’s thought of it.”
Chernoff came to the cemetery to meet Dahl and thank him for his work.
Dahl says he hopes his work prompts others across Canada to take a walk in their local cemetery.
“These are just the boys from one little town, in little Alberta, and every little town has these cemeteries.
“Every little town has these stones.”
Dahl says he’s cleaned about a quarter of the veterans’ graves.
He was able to complete them all by 3 a.m. on Remembrance Day and pledges to keep an eye on them.
“Then I’ll start over and make sure that they’re tended to.”
Editor’s note: While Dahl didn’t initially think he would be able to clean all the graves before Remembrance Day, this story was updated Nov. 11 with the news he had completed his work.