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Looking after Waikato district's cemeteries a passion - not just a job - for Deidre MacDonald

September 12, 2017

Waikato District Council cemetery officer Deidre MacDonald has a big job looking after more than 20 cemeteries in the district.


Cemeteries; they're a vital part of any community. 

There's a lot of work involved in managing them.

As cliche as it sounds, for Waikato District Council cemetery officer Deidre MacDonald it's not a job, it's her passion.

"I think it's the satisfaction of seeing families going away content with laying their loved one to rest."

There's not a day goes by when she dreads coming to work.

To some, it may be hard to understand why she chose the job.

"It's a job some people aren't comfortable with, it's the unknown."

Across the district, she's responsible for 22 functioning cemeteries. 

"I went into Whatawhata Cemetery to look at putting in seating and I said you know what, this is my favourite cemetery, it's a bit weird, I know."

The Hamilton resident has only been in the role for three years but it's where she hopes to stay. 

"It was probably a natural progression from funeral directing to cemetery managing, I know what families go through, when they come to us, they don't want any issues."

 Making the whole process as smooth as possible is what she strives for. 

"I think it's just having the empathy, putting yourself in their shoes."

Any issues that arise need to be dealt with as soon as possible.

"It's not the line of work where you say, I'll do it later...really, the responsibility that all goes well lies on me.

"With a Muslim burial, they generally have it within the 24 hours so I have to call contractors immediately."

Working with funeral directors and families is just one part of her job, however.

There's a lot more to it than meets the eye. 

"I don't think people think it's so hands on, they think I'm just sitting in an office.

"There's a lot of regulations to be adhered to and there's some sensitive issues here."

The grass has to be kept at a certain level and headstones have to meet certain guidelines.

Around four or five days after a burial, MacDonald has to ensure the dirt mound is levelled off by contractors. 

Keeping everything looking its best is an important part of the job.

The whole vibe of a cemetery is an important part of a families journey of laying their loved one to rest, she said.

"People don't want to go to a cemetery and see it uncared for, I go back to the sensitivity of the job, it's just natural for me."

website here © 2017 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

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