Having only been a cemetarian for 18 months I am still in the learning stage of what exactly a cemetarian should do. When I say learning stage I don’t mean to imply that you learn everything quickly. I’m fairly certain I will be in the learning stage for years to come. I work for a family owned company which has four funeral homes within a 30 mile radius of each other. In 2008 they decided to get into the cemetery business and purchased a 28 acre cemetery that had been seized by the State of Louisiana Cemetery Board for mismanagement. I was a retired police officer in our community, having retired with the rank of Major after 30 years in law enforcement. My attributes were organizational skills and knowing how to handle people who have problems. Of course this cemetery had a lot of problems. It has really been a wonderful experience for me and working for a company that wants everything done the right way is a big help.

The former owners of the cemetery left only paper trails of their management skills. We put everything in computer files and that has helped to solve most of the problems. With a little history out of the way let me get to the core subject of this post. Even though I am owned by one funeral home company, it did not take me long to realize that I actually provide a service to all the funeral homes in our area. Of course, most of the funeral directors knew me by name and reputation and that of course has helped. It also did not take me long to realize not only am I serving a family who has lost a loved one, but I am also serving the funeral director in charge of the service. The better I make him look in the eyes of the family he is serving the better he will make me look by guiding future business my way. I provide a service that is needed and I should bend over backwards to help all parties involved.

So, what exactly does a cemetarian do during services at his cemetery? I do realize our primary function is to open and close the grave and provide set up, which includes tent, chairs and grass. We direct and park cars in the cemetery during services. We also provide water to the families during hot weather. What exactly is our function during the service and when should we approach families? Should we do it upon arrival? Should we do it after the service? Even though the service is being held in our cemetery, who exactly is in charge? Everyone should understand, this is not an ego problem, this is something I am just throwing out for discussion to see how other cemeteries operate and handle problems.

I once had an out of state funeral home bring a body up for a service and they hired a Louisiana funeral director to do the service. The body arrived at the cemetery before the funeral director and with the help of the driver and my employee’s we took the casket out of the hearse and put it on the lowering device. The funeral director arrived a few minutes later and chastised me for moving the body before he arrived. Was this right or wrong? Should I have waited to move the casket?

I had a flower truck bring flowers to the cemetery before the procession arrived. The flower truck had a funeral director in it, plus the delivery driver. The funeral director told the delivery driver to drive on the grass on the cemetery up to the grave site. The delivery driver told the funeral director I had said on previous occasions not to drive on the grass. They did anyway. So should I call and complain to the manager of the funeral home using our cemetery?

I know there’s a fine line in dealing with human emotions and I’m certainly not one to make waves. I’ve always operated on the concept of common sense. Ok, now let’s think this thing out and then make a decision. I would appreciate any discussion on this topic.