With Find A Grave, volunteer honors memory of the dead

| Cynthia Hill | May 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

Dick Huber kneels next to a grave in Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

When Dick Huber was growing up as a parishioner of St. Francis de Sales in St. Paul, visiting the graves of grandparents and other relatives at Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul was a family ritual. These days, Huber still stops by Calvary frequently, mostly as a volunteer, photographing headstones for memorial pages on Find A Grave, an online cemetery genealogy tool.

Find A Grave is a free service aimed at finding, recording and presenting gravesite cemetery information. It calls itself “a virtual cemetery experience” for anyone interested in locating the burial site of family and friends, as well as those of famous individuals. Find A Grave members set up memorial pages for deceased relatives and submit biographies, pictures and other data.

Memorial Day Masses planned at cemeteries May 29

Five years ago, Huber, 75, joined Find A Grave as part of his growing interest in his family’s genealogy. “I found that creating memorial pages on Find A Grave was a wonderful way to build a family history that can be shared online within our family,” Huber said.

With time to spare in his retirement, Huber signed up to become a Find A Grave photo volunteer. It works this way: Find A Grave members can request a headstone photo to be taken for a memorial page, and volunteers like Huber take on the assignment for cemeteries in their ZIP code. The job involves going to the cemetery, finding the gravesite, taking the photo and uploading it to the site.

A self-professed “history nut” and 1960 Cretin High School graduate, Huber enjoys visiting the cemeteries in his area, especially Calvary. “I love Calvary. I’ve been rooted here since the time I was a child,” he said. “There’s so much history here and such beautiful monuments.”

When he receives a request for a Calvary grave, Huber checks in with office manager Linda Radtke to locate the site. With a cemetery map, he heads out to find the graves, often trimming and cleaning the markers before taking the photograph. Not all graves have markers. In those cases, Huber places a temporary wooden cross — or an angel statue for infants — at the grave site for the photo. When the grave is of a former service member, he adds a small flag for the photo.

“I try to treat each grave as if it were one of my own relatives. It’s to honor the memory of these people who have gone before us,” he said. “They are gone but not forgotten.”

In his five years as a Find A Grave volunteer, he has fulfilled 500 photo requests and has uploaded 2,650 photos to more than 1,500 memorials, 650 of which he’s added.

The rewards of his volunteering are simple, Huber said. “It’s fun helping others. And I hear back from the majority of those who have requested a photo expressing their gratitude. That’s very satisfying.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Fall/Winter edition of “Heritage,” Catholic Cemeteries’ newsletter.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Memorial Day