What is Required of a Cemetery Superintendent to be Successful in his work?

Date Published: 
September, 1903
Original Author: 
C. D. Phipps
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 17th Annual Convention

There is so much difference in size, the location, the natural and unnatural, we might say, or what nature has done and what is required of us to assist in doing to make our grounds attractive and as they should be.

I will first speak of my own grounds. They are composed of about forty acres, with intending purchases of more, in the near future. Nature has done much for us. Our grounds slope gradually to the east and south, with a ravine along the southern border, thus securing proper drainage and sewerage for all time. Twenty acres are now occupied and the other has been laid out in lots, but they will no doubt be more or less changed. All that has been sold and occupied is kept nicely mowed with lawn mower. We make no extra charge for this work. The money from interments and the lot sales more than keep up the grounds nicely, while we have a neat sum on interest for future buying and improvements. We are gradually gaining on the all sodded or lawn plan. I prefer myself to have a slight raise for the mounds; they do not show settling as the level ones do. We have but few trees on the grounds proper; lot owners do not wish them. We think our shrubbery fine; rose, hydrangea and althea predominate. Our lot owners have free access to the grounds at all times and all are helpers, especially the ladies, saving the management a large sum each year in keeping the grounds neat and tidy. I have not had a gate locked in my twenty years care of the grounds and nothing has been destroyed or taken. I believe the best way is to trust persons put them on their honor.

We have a Board of Management of five; one is elected each year, serving five years. The election is by the lot owners, each one having a vote. In this way a social mutuality has grown among the lot owners, especially the ladies that have done much to make our cemetery the attractive place that it is. Of course small cemeteries do not have the large sums of money to expend and work that could be done at once requiring more time to accomplish. We may say we grow, but not like the man's gourd.

All true cemetery superintendents are alike---really men of sorrow and acquainted with grief. No other person is as much confided in and trusted, and should we not be careful and not betray this trust? Let us live and work that managers and lot owners will be sure that that confidence is not misplaced. Kindness and a proper reverence for all who come to the grounds, especially the aged and those who need consolation, should be shown. "Let us reason together."

One of the main requisites of a cemetery superintendent is taste; neatness to know and admire the beautiful and learn to love its life and growth. We should know of it that we may teach it to others. The one who improves his grounds and his home surroundings, not only benefits himself, but the entire community in which he lives, while all are made better. Good examples, like the measles are catching. When a man forms a contrast' between a well cared for home or grounds and the neglected ones, it is a lesson for the thoughtful observer. The importance of improving the home and surroundings cannot be over estimated. The appearance of all that comes under a man's care is evidence of thrift and prosperity or the reverse. There is an uplifting tendency in anything that is beautiful; it is an attraction that comes to us as the fragrance and the beauty of the flowers and the beams of the sun. Every community should have an improvement association and every person should be a member. In a talk before the last meeting of the American League for Civic Improvement, Prof. Wirtbacht said: "What we want to do is to teach the children taste; get taste into the child; get taste into the household and then taste into the community; when we have done that we need not fear the results." This is something for all of us to think about; an excellent subject for all interested in the welfare of our community. Our schools in the teaching of botany, geology and zoology will teach our children for more and better work and living; also much is being done in the way of neatness and economy.

A man's craft furnishes the chief basis for his success, the spirit in which we enter or take up our work, how we serve our constituents, for work of our kind is really sacred and sympathetic and all should be done in kindness, with the thought of it as a duty to those coming to us, thoughtful of the feelings of others. We must be men, true men, ever ready to suit ourselves to the wishes of others; a fraternal heart to heart feeling for all; a life giving sunshine that can come from no other source. Our work is greater and nobler than many realize. We must be educated in our work.  All business requires trained minds; those who fail have not that education. Our work requites mind, body and spirit; no one can teach more than he knows.

Chalmer wrote: "Live for something. Do good and leave behind you a monument of virtue that storms of time can never destroy; write your name in kindness, love and mercy on the hearts of thousands you come in contact with year by year and you will be as legible in the hearts you leave behind you as the stars on the brow of the evening."

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 17th Annual Convention
Held at Rochester, NY
September 8, 9 and 10, 1903