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'Working for the Lord:' A Day in the Life of a Maine Grave Digger
02/03/2014   Reported By: Jennifer Mitchell

Grave digging is an activity many would be loath to contemplate, let alone do. Today, most graves are dug by municipal employees with backhoes. And with embalming now a standard practice, it's rare to even find someone who performs wintertime burials. But, as Jennifer Mitchell discovered, in Washington County there's still one man who insists on doing things the old-fashioned way.

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Everard Hall, 70, digs another grave by hand at a church yard in Addison.

It's windy. It's winter. There's a funeral in three days - and the Addison church yard is frozen.

"Get a hole down through, under - might chip it off with a pick ax," says Everard Hall, breathing hard as he digs. "No, this ain't no easy job, tell ya. You've got to have a lot of determination and a lot of willpower. And you can't be lazy."

And even though he'll soon turn 70, no one has ever accused Everard Hall of that. "I don't get no complaints. I don't do nothing half-assed," he says.

The folks who call on him, says Hall, tend to be old-fashioned. They don't want undertakers keeping their loved ones' bodies in cold storage until the spring thaw. And they don't want that for themselves.

Grave digger Hall 1"Talking with a lady the other day, and she said, 'Everard, I want you to do my grave. I want you to come down here and get my grave done. I don't care if it's snowing or raining or what it is,'" he says. "She says, 'Everard, I don't want to be put in no darned refrigerator,' she says, 'and I want YOU to come down and do my grave.' I said, 'Doris, I'll be down there if it's snowing, hail, sleet. You'll be put in the ground.'"

Hall (right) has been digging graves with a pick ax and a shovel for 48 years. He's even fashioned a custom tool with a flat chopping blade, which he jokingly calls "The Everard." It helps him cut through frozen soil and fashion the grave into a perfect rectangle: 8-feet long, 3-feet wide, and 4-and-a-half feet deep.

Hall was born in Cherryfield into a family of 12 kids. Growing up in Washington County in the 1940s, he says, meant learning to haul your own water, chop your own wood, and shoot your own dinner. Two of Hall's siblings died in infancy, and following a difficult birth with the 12th child, Hall's mother lost the use of her legs. She remained bedridden for the rest of her life.

With 10 children to feed and an ailing wife, Hall's father struggled to make a living cutting wood. So Hall grew up fast. "I quit eighth grade to earn money to feed the family."

He took a job with a stone cutter who made tombs and monuments. After a few years, the local undertaker noticed Hall and asked if he could help with the grave digging. From there, Hall found work all over Washington County. Now, after almost half a century, Hall has buried enough people to populate a small town.

Everard Hall: "I'd say 2,500, rough estimate - 2,500 anyway. That's a lot of holes. I've dug graves when it was 10 below zero and the wind blowing and snowing, and I've dug graves when it was 90 degrees and hotter than hell.

Jennifer Mitchell: "Are there any graves you particularly remember?"

Everard Hall: "I remember all of them."

And he has photo albums with each grave immortalized on film to prove it. But still, some of them have been special. "I buried my mother, my father, my grandfather, and two aunts and two uncles. And I buried my sister, Marilyn," he says.

Jennifer Mitchell: "What about your grave? Who is going to dig that?"

Everard Hall: "Oh, I hope to get it laid out the way I want it myself. Someday I'll go up to the cemetery, show you where my lot is."

Jennifer Mitchell: "So you already have the spot picked out."

Everard Hall: "Yup. I know where I'm going. I have a cross on my grave with my initials on it, a white cross, says EDS, Everard Dallas Hall, right where I'm going."

Hall may be contemplating his own resting place now, and planning to start digging this summer, but that doesn't mean he's ready to stop. Hall says he'll only stop digging graves when, as he puts it, he's "called home."

"God knows, I don't know. He knows," Hall says. "I'm here to do His job. I'm working for the Lord. He gives me the strength to do the work that I do. I've got a God-given talent: I'm a grave digger."

Photos: Jennifer Mitchell


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