Headstone donated for homeless man who perished in fire

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By John DeCoste
HANTSPORT - The late Harley Lawrence now has a tangible, lasting monument to his memory.

Harley Lawrence's brother, Ron, kneels beside a headstone that was placed in a Hantsport cemetery in Harley's memory on Saturday. The headstone was donated by a community member. Harley, 62, died in a fire in a Berwick bus shelter in October. - Photo by John DeCoste

On Saturday, a grave marker was dedicated to mark Lawrence’s final resting place in Riverside Cemetery in Hantsport.

Harley, who lived on the street in a number of Nova Scotia communities, died in Berwick Oct. 23 as the result of a fire in the bus shelter where he was sleeping.

Family members, friends and community members gathered at the graveside for a short dedication service. Afterwards, the family presented certificates of appreciation to individuals, groups and businesses for their support.

Among those present for the ceremony were Harley’s brothers Maynard, Bob, Ron and Bruce, sister Ruth and half-brother Lester Fisher.

“We thought this was the proper way to thank these people and businesses for all they’ve done for us,” said family spokesperson Ron Lawrence of Windsor.

Among those receiving certificates were Reid Allen, owner of J. Wilson Allen Funeral Home of Summerville, Hants County, and Paul Himmelman and Karen Logan of Demone Monuments in Lunenburg, who donated and constructed the headstone.

“It’s a very nice gesture on Reid’s part,” Ron Lawrence said. “Maynard and I were pricing grave markers, and when we spoke with Reid, he quoted us a price and then offered to donate it.”

For his part, Allen said it was “quite an honour” to be part of this.

“I was touched by the whole story,” Allen said. “My friends at White’s (Family Funeral Home in Kentville) donated Harley’s funeral service; I would have done the same if it had been in my area. When I was approached, I decided it was my chance to do something for the family.”

Allen called Himmelman, who agreed to split the headstone’s cost as well as construct it.   

“We did it together,” Allen said.

The stone includes Harley’s name, his dates of birth and death, a picture of a camp in the woods, a wandering man with a bundle on a stick and the inscription, ‘Always Remembered, Still Wandering.’

Ron explained the family had input into the design of the stone.

“The cabin is a camp our family had when we were children. The travelling man represents Harley travelling from place to place,” Ron said.  

He added that an unknown donor donated the grave lot. William Caldwell dug the grave and filled it in afterward. Kelly Grant organized the candlelight vigil for Harley in Berwick and several Berwick businesses donated candles and other supplies.

“We’d like to thank everyone for being here today, and for all their help and support to us as a family through this. It’s been a learning curve for all of us, but we’re getting through it with your support,” Ron said.

Brian Bishop, a Hantsport resident who knew Harley well when he lived there, was presented with a photograph of Harley as a boy.

Also receiving a certificate was John Andrew, founder of the Open Arms shelter and ministry in Kentville and Berwick, who befriended Harley and tried to help him.

Andrew said the publicity surrounding Harley’s life and death “has motivated a lot of people, and awakened them to a lot of issues in the community, including mental health and homelessness.

“Many things have happened because of Harley. It’s strange, in a way, that someone who wasn’t really a social person could end up being such a catalyst for change.”





Organizations: Open Arms

Geographic location: Berwick, Hantsport, Riverside Cemetery Nova Scotia Kentville Windsor Hants County Lunenburg

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