Cemetery Volunteer Restores Respect To Area Graveyards - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

07/16/03

Cemetery Volunteer Restores Respect To Area Graveyards

He uncovers coast history with a hatchet. A Biloxi man is on a clean up crusade in local cemeteries.

He's tackled overgrown vines and tall weeds in a half dozen neglected graveyards. 

Fifty year old Steve DuRocher wasn't looking for attention. A friend of his told WLOX News about his efforts. And it's a fascinating story. 

He's helped restore several coast cemeteries, places where time and neglect had taken a toll.

"You get away from the rat race a lot. I don't get many visitors out here," said Steve DuRocher, as he pulled an overgrown vine that was choking a grave stone in Handsboro Cemtery.

DuRocher works among the dearly departed. His labor in the cemetery is basic yard work. But the motivation and meaning reaches beyond simple landscaping.

"I wouldn't know how to tell you how this fulfills me. It would take me all day and I don't believe we're going to be doing a mini series on this," he said, laughing.

A mini series would be easy. This caretaker discovers stories among the stones.

"There are different graves out here that make you wonder what happened to these people in life. There's a lot of children," he explained.

Mother Nature is a formidable foe. Thorny vines leave painful impressions.

"That's my battle scars right there," he said as he showed off his badly scraped arms.  "I call them devil vines."

DuRocher says one of the rewards of his work is uncovering art. One small section of cemetery with its fancy grave stones was completely overgrown. Now that it's cleaned up, it's a highlight of this cemetery.

Though he gets occasional visits from the living, few are inclined to help with his cemetery project. The world is a bit too fast paced.

"Most people these days, they're so busy with their microwave ovens and their cable TV. They don't have time for anything else," he lamented.

But he doesn't worry about those who'd rather spend time elsewhere. He does have a problem ignoring the past.

"The people that put their blood, sweat and tears to make this place what it is. They deserve better," he said.

Steve DuRocher will do what he can to make it better.

"I'm going to carry on and do the best I can with what I've got," he said.

DuRocher began his volunteer cemetery work several years ago. He started by helping place flags on the graves of confederate soldiers. He soon found himself sprucing up a few grave sites and then adopting entire cemteries.

By Steve Phillips

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