A cemetery caretaker performs a number of grounds maintenance and burial preparation tasks at a public or private cemetery. He or she uses lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, clippers, and other gardening tools on a daily basis. When a grave needs to be dug, the cemetery caretaker is generally responsible for identifying the best location and excavating the ground to the appropriate size and depth. The caretaker may also control the equipment used to carefully place caskets into their graves. Most cemetery caretakers are city employees, though some work for privately-owned parks or funeral homes.
As with most groundskeeper jobs, the daily duties of a cemetery caretaker depend largely on the weather. In warm seasons, he or she mows and waters grass, trims trees, and tends to flowers. A caretaker often spends winter months raking leaves, removing debris, leveling ground, and planting new seeds. In addition to gardening, the caretaker opens gates during daytime hours and makes sure the grounds are locked and secure at night.
Cemetery caretakers are often also responsible for digging and preparing burial sites when they are given notice from funeral homes. Depending on the softness and composition of the soil, the caretaker may be able to excavate a grave entirely by hand with the aid of shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows. The worker may also operate a tractor and a backhoe to quickly remove large amounts dirt and rock. He or she normally affixes grave markers and tombstones into place and ropes off open graves to prevent accidents. A caretaker generally needs to be in good physical condition and have excellent vision to accomplish such tasks in an efficient manner.
Most caskets are lowered into graves with the aid of hydraulic or pneumatic lifts that are operated by the cemetery caretaker. Since the job is performed in public and often around grieving friends and family, the caretaker is usually expected to be well-groomed, quiet, and respectful. After caskets are put into place, the caretaker disassembles and puts away the lowering equipment. He or she fills in the plot, levels the ground, and lays down sod.
A person who wants to become a cemetery caretaker usually needs to obtain a high school diploma and participate in several months of supervised, on-the-job training to master skills. A new worker learns how to operate lawnmowers, tractors, hydraulic lifts, and other specialized equipment from experienced groundskeepers. With experience, the worker is often given more responsibilities and eventually allowed to work unsupervised.