to see here:
Todd Woodworth still gives tours of his favorite haunts
By Dinah Cardin/ email@example.com
Friday, October 29, 2004
retired, likes to give tours of his favorite haunts
While a cemetery tour might be good Halloween fun this weekend, Todd
Woodworth doesn't do Halloween tours. The lifelong Newburyport resident
instead marks each spring by guiding groups through Oak Hill Cemetery.
He retired just last week from nearly 60 years in the funeral business.
Woodworth, 83, says he's been working since he was 15 years old, when
he began volunteering on the gym floor at the YMCA. He ran his own business,
Woodworth Funeral Home on High Street, for 20 years before Elliott Woodworth
and Rogers Funeral Home on Green Street.
But retirement won't keep the man who knows the most about Newburyport's
eight cemeteries from heading up the tours he has led for more than
a decade. These peaceful parcels around the city set aside for the dead
are places familiar to Woodworth throughout his life. He grew up in
a State Street home that looked out on revered Oak Hill; nearby Pine
Swamp Pond was within his stomping ground for fishing and ice skating.
Over the years, Woodworth has become an expert in locating graves for
lost loves and family members. It has earned him the reputation as the
city's unofficial cemetery historian. At Oak Hill, he has found 50 burials
that took place before the cemetery's 1842 consecration, including that
of a child who passed away in 1797.
His tours take groups around the graves of those made famous in local
history books, from well-known sea captains to important figures in
More than eight decades of his friends and neighbors have found their
final resting places there.
"You think of these people. I've been here all my life; maybe they'll
think of me when I go," Woodworth says.
He tells stories along the way, like the one about the man who tended
the Newburyport Public Gardens on the corner where City Hall is now.
Ironically, grass will not grow on the gardener's grave because of overhanging
trees that block the sunlight.
He has his favorite artful gravesites that look more like sculpture
than a monument for the dead.
"I like the idea that people have taken the time and effort and
expense to put something like that up," he says.
There is the grave with the 25-foot monument topped by an urn that Woodworth
always enjoyed. He recalls a couple of trouble makers who used to hang
around the cemetery and caused problems and scared people. They once
tried to scale the monument, but when they tossed up a rope, the scalawags
accidentally toppled the urn.
"I always said it was too bad it missed them," Woodworth snickers.
Woodworth's wife, Grace, just rolls her eyes at his tours, he says.
But he's been able to do some good with his wealth of knowledge and
particular expertise. Over the years, Woodworth has come across the
graves of a few who did something unusual in life, yet in their final
resting place, lack a marker. In the business for so many years, Woodworth
knows a thing or two about getting them some recognition.
Most of his family is buried at Oak Hill and, in a way only a funeral
director would put it, Woodworth matter-of-factly says his place is
waiting there, too.
"I've got my grave up there," he says. "It's all ready