Sexton keeps Edmonds cemetery green and tidy

EDMONDS — Sneaking into Edmonds Memorial Cemetery after dark on Halloween will be more of a scare than a treat when tricksters run into Cliff Edwards.

Edwards patrols the cemetery on that night every year to keep it safe from vandals. It’s one of many tasks he’s completed in 21 years as ceme

tery sexton.

“Before the cemetery was taken over by the city of Edmonds it was run down and overgrown. But I work to keep it enjoyable so that people want to come back,” Edwards said.

He finds the yardwork his job requires rewarding because the cemetery looks so nice when it’s completed. “I like being outside. Winters around here can be ugly, but I have rain gear,” Edwards said.

Daily tasks vary from selling graves, setting headstones, picking weeds and cleaning toilets.

“I enjoy working here because it’s just me. I’m not in charge of a crew, there’s no boss and I get to set my own schedule,” he said.

Working with families is bittersweet for Edwards.

“There are some people that I can joke around with, but there are others you can tell don’t want to be there so I try to get them in and out as quick as possible,” he said.

To make his office less stuffy and more inviting for grieving families, he hangs football memorabilia and pictures on the walls, he said.

“I try to make the experience easier for people who are going through bad times,” Edwards said.

The historical cemetery is owned by the city of Edmonds and falls under the purview of the Parks Department. There are 7,000 people buried there, but a quarter of the 6½-acre cemetery still has plots for sale.

Many notable Edmonds residents rest at the cemetery including 14 mayors, 400 veterans of six wars and Edmonds pioneers.

A self-guided tour of the cemetery teaches guests about the history of the people who helped create the city. The tour begins with George E. Brackett, the founder and first mayor of Edmonds, and ends with Wellington Smith, a City Council member who built the first house in Edmonds in 1888.

Another feature of the cemetery is an outdoor columbarium, a granite wall that has 680 two-urn niches and was completed in 2006. The ramp-accessible wall features a waterfall and flower stations.

The cemetery offers two annual public events: a Memorial Day observance and the Walk Back in Time open house on the third Thursday of July.

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