She literally knows where the bodies are buried
Julie "Burt" Hendrix remembers well the day she decided to switch careers. Burt, as everyone knows her at Riverview Cemetery, was visiting Section Nine with her daughter to see where her great, great grandfather was buried between his two wives.
"I came up to take some pictures, looked around and said, 'Oh God I want to work here."
That was February 11, 2000. She went to the front office, filled out a job application and within days was hired. Hendrix retired on the last day of 2019.
During her career as greeter/counsellor/adviser/receptionist at Portland's largest non-denominational cemetery, located south of Southwest Taylor's Ferry Road and west of the Willamette River, she consoled and consulted hundreds of families dealing with the emotions of burying a loved one.
She also assisted families looking for the graves of ancestors. "Every day, I do it every day. They want to know where someone is buried and how they died. More and more people want to know about their heritage and where they're from. I love my job," she said in December.
Hendrix joked about the reaction she gets when she tells people what she does for a living.
"They go ooooh," and scrunched her face like she just bit into a lemon, "you work with dead people?"
"No," she said, drawing out the negative, "I work with their families," she said.
Riverview Cemetery opened in 1882. The names of those buried there reads like a who's who of early Portland history: Terwilliger, Corbett, Couch, Dolph, Benson, Pittock and Weinhard among them.
Walking tours of the gravesites of the rich, powerful and important people buried at Riverview were a big part of Hendrix's day. She assisted with the extensive research done on the departed and pointed curious people in the right direction for the self-guided tours.
Hendrix said the most-visited grave these days is Virgil Earp's. The older brother of Wyatt Earp didn't spend a lot of time in Portland but was buried at Riverview by a daughter he only met late in life when his gunslinging days were behind him. endrix shared
The final resting place of Henry Weinhard has been a magnet for fans of the product that still bears his name even though it's brewed far from Burnside Street.
"We'll find beer cans at Virgil's grave but not nearly as many as we clean up at Henry's," she said.
Asked if working at Riverview has affected her outlook on life and death she immediately said, "Yes."
How so? "Working here behind the scenes, as I call it, you know more than the family that comes in to talk about it. You see more of what really happens. So it's kind of like, 'I've got to get my stuff ready now.'"
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