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Super Senior: Richard Bruso

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 1:43 PM EDT
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WEST CORNWALL, Vt. (WCAX) - There are sounds of life at the Evergreen Cemetery in West Cornwall -- crickets and caretaker Richard Bruso. “I’ve worked here all hours,” Bruso said, as he prepared to mow the grass.

He carefully maneuvers the push mower between each of the headstones, a regular task he’s done for over a half-century. “Time flies. Quite a period of time!” Bruso said.

On this day, Bruso’s second cousin, Thom Bruso, is visiting. “I’m proud of him, proud of the family to keep this going,” Thom said. It’s a family reunion of sorts, with the living and the dead. “There is a lot of us in here.”

Bruso is the third generation to take care of this cemetery. His grandfather started the tradition over 100 years ago. But he has another service he also provides.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You still dig graves right? By hand?

Richard Bruso: Yeah.

Bruso can give you the dirt on the soils of Addison County. Too sandy and it can make the grave unstable and too much clay makes it difficult to dig. “But in here, since I’ve been doing it, I’ve never had a machine in,” he said. “I have to have my ladder when I get below three feet. You know, I don’t hop out of it like I did when I was in my 20s.”

Evergreen is one of 12 cemeteries where Bruso works as a gravedigger. Now, he figures 70% of the graves he digs are for cremations. A good thing for the 75-year-old. A full burial is a much bigger footprint. “You go four-and-a-half, five feet. Quite a hole,” he said.

“He had a hole open to show you but he had to fill it in because there was somebody waiting,” Thom added.

All kidding aside, Bruso knows his work is unusual and at times sobering. “If I look back, I could get awful depressed, but you have to have a mind ahead and keep going,” he said.

With no children of his own, the family tradition of taking care of this burial ground will die with Bruso, along with the TLC he gives at this final resting place. Until then, he’ll be back tomorrow to finish the lawn.

“You just don’t quit, you just keep going. Keep going as long as you can, do what you can,” Thom said.

An epitaph for all to live by.

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