Twombly has served as a cemetery caretaker for more than 50 years
Alfred Twombly’s looking for more than just a little break in the rain in the days leading up to this weekend, one of the busiest of the year at the Holton Cemetery, where he’s taken care of the grounds for more than half a century.
“I’ve got to go out and mow when it settles down a little bit,” said Twombly, who started work at the cemetery on May 12, 1969.
Prior to that, he worked for 13 years at a Topeka cemetery, and today, he is still going strong at the age of 85.
“I just don’t want to give up,” Twombly said. “I enjoy meeting people, helping them out, helping them find graves, showing them the lots we have for sale and letting them pick one out, wherever they want.”
Twombly’s experiences as a cemetery caretaker began in 1954, when he was not much more than a week out of high school.
“I had a buddy who got a job down at the Topeka cemetery, and they told him to find somebody else to come along with him that they could use,” Twombly said. “So I went down with him. They gave me these papers to fill out, and they said, ‘Be ready by 8:00.’”
He worked as a cemetery caretaker for 13 years, during which time he married his wife, the former Evaline White, at his parents’ homestead near Denison. He then took a few years off for Army service before Holton funeral home owner Wendell Mercer asked him to come to work at the cemetery in 1969.
At that time, Twombly said, the cemetery encompassed about 35 acres of land, lots were sold at a price of about “six for $100” and record-keeping was done the old-fashioned way.
“They handed me a little-bitty set of books with names and plots, and they had me selling lots to people,” he said, noting that lot sales and cemetery deeds were handled “in town.”
He and Evaline moved to a two-story house that was located on land that eventually became part of the cemetery; the house has since been demolished. He got a fair amount of help from Evaline in taking care of the cemetery, and they were later joined by their son Joe, who worked alongside his father through high school.
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