What Is It Like To Work In A Cemetery?

Updated on March 16, 2018

My Work History of Running Cemeteries

Back in 1987 I overheard my present boss talking to the Diocese regarding him leaving his position as Supervisor of Maintenance in a Catholic High School, to taking on a position as Manager of a 35 acre cemetery is Trenton, New Jersey.

At that present time my boss declined the position due the fact that he would be retiring within a year as Supervisor of Maintenance at the High School, so I wondered, "what is it like to work in a Cemetery?"

As I overheard his conversation I spoke up and said I would be interested in the Manager Position at the Cemetery. He told the Diocese and they set up an interview for me. They were in need of a Manager quickly. The wages of this new job would be far more than I was making as maintenance at the High School.

I got the interview and was hired that day. I knew nothing about Cemetery work whatsoever, but figured I could learn as I learned every job I had taken over the years. I too thought it would be a very interesting job to learn and maybe make a career out of it for the future.

There are not many people that are looking for work at a Cemetery so I thought my chances were very good. It all worked out for me.

My training consisted of 8 hours. The fellow that ran the cemetery at that time had a blow out with the Diocese and was leaving right away. He was only willing to give me 8 hours of training and then walked away and said good luck.

This cemetery was 35 acres with three seven tier Mausoleums in which I knew nothing about also. I knew what the word burial meant, but I asked, "what the heck is an Entombment and how do you even do one?"

The fellow did show me briefly the grounds, and the three Mausoleums. These Mausoleum had outside and inside crypts which I may say were very nice. They were carpeted in each building with marble crypt fronts, while the outside crypts were granite.

I asked the present manager, how do you get up to the top crypts and he informed me, not showed me, a hydraulic lift is how you do it and that was the end of that conversation.

I thought to myself. what have I got myself into here?" He did inform me if I had any questions regarding anything in the Cemetery there would be a $10.00 per minute charge to the Diocese. Oh he did show me the necessary paperwork that needed to be filed out, and how to fill out the burial and entombment permits for the State of New Jersey.

The paperwork was a breeze, but I thought to myself how am I going to be able to find these graves in a 35 acre cemetery just by small maps that he also showed me.

I worked there for 3 years as Manager of that Cemetery and learned the entire Cemetery completely on my own and ran it with no problems whatsoever. I got to know all the Funeral Director and was liked by all of them, which led me to newer employment at a different Cemetery, still in Trenton, New Jersey.


New Employment with a Different Cemetery

A Funeral Director approached one day and said there was a position available in a different Cemetery in Trenton, but this position was as an Assistant to the Manager which worked as a Manager for the last 50 years and was thinking about going part time, so that is why he needed an Assistant to train to take over his place when he finally retires.

I went to the interview and they hired me. They were impressed that I ran my present Cemetery for the last three years with only 8 hours of training, and by the way, I only needed to call the previous Manger of my Cemetery two times to ask a question regarding something that I couldn't figure out. So it only cost the Diocese a total of $20.00 for him to answer my two questions. Not bad at all I must add for having no proper training in cemetery work.

At the end of my employment at the first Cemetery, I was making back then, $30,000.00 per year and in the interview at the new Cemetery they offered me $17,000.00 to $19,000.00 to start. Of course I almost laughed in their face, but I didn't, and told them I was making $30,000.00 now and I couldn't except their offer.

They looked at me and said, Okay, we will start you at $30,000.00 per year. With that said, I accepted the offer and began working there after my 2 week notice to my present employer, The Diocese of Trenton.

I was excited for this new chapter in my life and here I had a very knowledgeable person that would train me the proper way this time and not have to learn everything myself.

Prior to my working at Cemeteries, I was in business and partners with my Father-In- Law in the construction business. he taught me everything there was to building homes from the ground up, including, framing, concrete work, laying block for basements, surveying and so much more. I used this knowledge in the cemetery by building additions, laying out new sections of graves to develop for future sales. Underground Drainage pipes and so much more and way more than any Assistant Manager of a Cemetery would ever be expected to do. I didn't mind at all, in fact I really enjoyed getting back to working like I did in the old days of construction.

In this cemetery we had a Crematory with 2 retorts at that present time and over the years we added a third retort that was far more efficient than the two original machines. Although we were so busy with cremations that all three machines ran all day.

There was a beautiful Chapel right on the grounds that was used for viewings, committal services for cremations and sometimes for burials depending on if they just wanted to have services at out cemetery and not the Funeral Home.

I took great pride in this job and knew I had a great career ahead of me and sooner or later I would be Manager of this Cemetery as well.

The day finally came and I was appointed Manager, in which I held that position for over 15 years with a total years of employment of 23 years at the Cemetery.

I had the experience of Burials and Entombment's at my previous job, BUT, I had never done Cremations. That was a learning experience and none of it really bothered me due to the face, I worked at a Hospital for 10 years and saw pretty much of everything. I

I also did the autopsies at that hospital with the guidance of the Pathology Doctor. I learned so much and only wished that would have been my career for a lifetime, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted.

Below are a few videos of Cremation and the process of the cremation, SO BE ADVISED, THEY ARE GRAPHIC AND IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH I WOULD ADVISE YOU NOT TO WATCH.

Disinterment of Bodies - Exhuming Bodies

Not only I ran the Cemetery, did the Cremations when the Crematory Operator was not available, but had to do a few disinterment's as well. This process has to been 110% perfect, meaning when you are laying out a grave for the exhuming of a body, you'd better have the right one, that's all I have to say. There is no guessing and everything has to be right on the money including your measurements to find that certain grave.

Here is a video below that will show you briefly the process in exhuming a body.

I left the Cemetery after 23 years of service when I moved to the New Jersey Shore. The ride began to be too much from the Ocean to the City of Trenton, six days a week. One year ago I got hired by Costco Wholesale in which is only part time. I must say it is a far cry from working in a Cemetery.

So there you have a brief idea of what it is like to work and run a cemetery. There is so much more I could say about working in a Cemetery, but you probably would get bored by reading thousands of words, so I will end this hub as is.


Working in a Cemetery


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      • Dolores Monet profile image

        Dolores Monet 

        6 years ago from East Coast, United States

        My idea of managing a cemetery comes from novels and visiting older cemeteries. I want to live in an old house overlooking a quaint historic cemetery with infrequent business and just sort of gardening around the place. A bit of lawn mowing. Pruning some shrubs. Bird watching. Sitting on the back porch and watching the sun go down behind the cypress trees.

      • the clean life profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Bruno 

        6 years ago from New Jersey Shore

        kj force - Thank you so much for reading and your comment. I too did autopsy's when working in the hospital. Very interesting indeed. Not too many people can do what we have done. I guess I missed my calling as my Mom always said. Thanks for sending us the warmth up here from Your State of Florida. 70's + today :)

      • kj force profile image


        6 years ago from Florida

        the clean life.... have been involved in the autopsy part . .but.. never the cremation ....found interesting....thinking about it perhaps this is where the stories relating to the " fires of hell " came from ,as in the days of the bible, burying bodies in the ground was not done..due to animals digging up the remains , traditionally done in Indian cultures also...just a thought...thanks for the share..it appears you respect your choice of career. well written.


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