Grave duty done with a smile
Digging holes may seem a thankless task, but for Ray Edwards it is a chance to help people.
The Whenua Tapu cemetery grave digger - or, technically, cemetery assistant - has been in the job for more than 15 years.
A smiling and amicable man, he couldn't be further from the mold of a grim digger shovelling out graves in the dead of night.
In fact, he sees the job as a great way of meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends. "It's good to help them," he says.
With a large Pacific Island and Maori population around the cemetery between Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay the grave sites are decorated with a riot of flowers.
"I believe it is one of the most colourful in the country. [It's] not quite so good after a storm. A lot of flowers get blown around."
These days, most graves are dug using a digger, but the old-fashioned shovel still comes out to get a neat finish on all graves, for children's graves, and for second interment, for example when a wife is buried on top of her dead husband. But even digging down to just above an existing grave even if he has occasionally hit a coffin lid doesn't give him the creeps.
"We know someone is down there. We just have to be careful how far down we are going."
The Whenua Tapu cemetery Porirua's largest had its first burial in 1975. There have since been 8144 burials, including ashes.
A new area in the west of the cemetery was opened in 2008. On average there are about 3 burials each week. It is estimated there is room for another 50 years of burials at Whenua Tapu.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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