Their names were unmarked and their deaths were unheralded during a dark and terrifying chapter in human history.
But now, after nearly a century, a largely bare patch of land on the north end of Regina Cemetery will become the site of a memorial to the victims of the deadly 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
'When I heard the story about all the people who had died, and that there was absolutely nothing in that area, I felt something had to be done.' - Kenton de Jong, Regina-based travel blogger
"I think everyone should have a memorial to remember their lives and their death," said Kenton de Jong, a Regina-based travel blogger who has worked for months to make the memorial a reality.
He will see his work pay off when the monument is unveiled Thursday.
"When I heard the story about all the people who had died, and that there was absolutely nothing in that area, I felt something had to be done."
De Jong's interest in this piece of the city's history was sparked when he picked up the Regina Ethnic Pioneers Cemetery Walking Tour booklet and did the walk himself. After reading more, de Jong said he felt others could benefit from learning about the history of the Spanish flu — one of history's most lethal plagues, which is estimated to have killed as many as 50 million to 100 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1920.
"It's such an incredible story that people don't really know about the Spanish flu," he said.
De Jong sifted through records from that time, including minutes from city meetings, to piece together some of the turbulence of the pandemic.
"They closed down churches, it changed schools into hospitals, they changed hours people could go shopping. It just transformed the entire city."
In Regina, 330 people died from the Spanish flu, de Jong said, with several of those people buried in individual plots at the Regina Cemetery. Many had no friends, family or church affiliation to remember them with a memorial, nor did they have the money for a headstone, at a time when body after body lay waiting to be buried.
Hoping to fill that century-old gap, de Jong began walking tours at the cemetery to raise awareness, followed by a fundraising campaign with a GoFundMe page raising $1,925 to create a memorial.
I am excited to announce the unveiling of the Spanish Influenza Memorial! Come and join us Dec 14th at 3pm at the Regina Cemetery and honour the 330 lives lost to this global pandemic. Designed by @lseidlik. https://t.co/h3Ok3K8igO #yqr #sask #history pic.twitter.com/zU84svTVwy— @KentondeJong
The front of the memorial remembers Regina's victims of the Spanish flu and has a QR code also incorporated. People can scan or visit the website directly to learn more about this chapter in Regina's history.
De Jong is eager to see the unveiling, after months of work to honour the lives of those who may be gone but, thanks to his efforts, will not be forgotten.
"I'm happy but I'm nervous. It's been a long time going."