Longtime cemetery board member says farewell
An Estacada resident who has been a friendly face at local cemeteries for more than four decades has stepped down from his post.
Bob Akins joined the Estacada Cemetery Maintenance Board in 1973 and retired earlier this month. The group oversees nine cemeteries in the area and is responsible for groundskeeping, maintaining equipment and financial oversight.
A lifetime Estacada resident, Akins was drawn to the Cemetery Maintenance Board because of family connections. He initially joined to finish a term started by his uncle.
"I said, 'I'll finish your term.' I didn't realize it would last a lifetime," he said. "For the last 20 years, I've said, 'This is my last term.' Then they would talk me into staying longer."
Akins has seen many changes in funeral traditions while serving on the board. When he first started, families could dig their loved one's grave themselves for a reduced burial fee.
"We've gone from burial to cremation to green burial," he added. "We didn't see cremations when I first started."
Akins has appreciated the variety of people his tenure on the board has connected him with, noting that "meeting people and seeing the differences in people" has been one of the most rewarding elements of his work.
"You really notice (the differences in people) when it comes (to) burial time," he said. "Some are appreciative, and others wish it would all go away, and I don't blame them."
Akins has also enjoyed learning more about the community of Estacada. For example, while putting flags on the graves of veterans for Memorial Day, he directed a relative to the burial site of his great-great-great grandfather, who fought in the Spanish-American War.
"I hadn't realized we had any veterans here from the Spanish-American War," Akins said. "That was interesting."
Despite the often grievous nature of the job, Akins and his coworkers have found ways to appreciate the lighter moments that come along.
Akins recalled an instance when Estacada Funeral Chapel owner Rob Gaskill called him while trying to locate a specific grave. He gave him directions, and Gaskill realized he was closer to the site than he realized.
"He says, 'I'm standing on it," Akins recounted.
The interactions with people are what Akins will miss the most about serving on the board.
"I'm kind of a hermit. My wife calls me the hermit on the hill," he said. "I really enjoy being around people, and to stick out a job like that, you've got to love people."