‘Buffalo Joe’ Healy’s tireless search for the RCMP buried and lost

In a section of Beechwood Cemetery devoted to the RCMP is the black granite headstone of Assistant Commissioner Alexander Neville Eames, who once commanded the force’s Western Arctic subdivision.

A legendary figure in the RCMP, Eames directed the most famous manhunt in Canadian history: the 48-day, 240-kilometre pursuit of the Mad Trapper of Rat River across the frozen north in the winter of 1932. First time a plane had been so deployed — and was part of the posse that ultimately confronted and killed the resourceful and inexplicably violent trapper known as Albert Johnson. Johnson shot dead one RCMP officer and wounded two more during his flight from justice. Eames went on to a distinguished career, retired after 33-years of RCMP service, and died in Vancouver, B.C. in January 1965. His remains were cremated — and then all but disappeared.

For some reason, Eames’ mortal remains went unclaimed, and sat on a shelf in a Burnaby, B.C. warehouse for more than four decades. They might still be there were it not for Ottawa’s “Buffalo Joe” Healy and his sprawling Canadian history project. (Healy adopted the nickname, “Buffalo Joe,” after it was first bestowed upon him by an elementary school student who saw the buffalo head emblazoned on his RCMP badge.)

For more than two decades now, Healy, a retired RCMP superintendent, has obsessively tracked and documented the burial places of thousands of former RCMP officers.

He has built a website, www.rcmpgraves.com, that boasts files on everyone who has ever donned the red serge since 1873: more than 80,000 people in the RCMP and its predecessors, the North-West Mounted Police and Royal NWMP.

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