Thursday, March 14, 2013

Providing the final dignity for 40 years

By Meg Hibbert

SALEM – For 40 years in snow, rain and 100-degree heat, Donald L. Loving and Ronald G. Loving have provided the final dignity for people whose eternal resting place is Sherwood Memorial Park.

The ground crew members have dug the graves, lowered the caskets and filled in the grave sites after final rites are performed. The twins also cut the grass, trim around grave markers, take care of the landscaping and pick up the trash to keep everything looking neat for families and friends who visit their loved ones. And they know where just about everybody is buried or interred.

Sherwood Memorial Park President and CEO Susan Mini congratulates Donnie Loving, left, and Ronnie Loving for 40 years on the ground crew at the memorial park in Salem. Photo by Meg Hibbert

On March 11, the Loving brothers received tangible thanks for what they do. “For 40 Years of Untiring Service. Your Loyalty, Friendship and Diligence are Greatly Appreciated,” the engraved plaques read.

Sherwood President and CEO Susan Mini surprised the two by presenting the plaques on behalf of the Sherwood Memorial Park Board. There’s another plaque noting their service, which is being mounted in the office lobby near the front desk so that anyone who comes into the building can see it.

There was a little something extra in the brothers’ pay envelopes for the week, too, Mini told them.

The 63-year-old brothers were just about speechless at the presentation, Donnie said.

Donnie Loving

“Oh, my gosh. It’s better than a 40-year-pin,” said Donnie, who had joked beforehand Mini might be going to give them pins to mark their anniversary at the memorial park in Salem.

When asked what the two like about working there, Donnie said, “What we do is actually one of the most important things in the world. We treat other people’s graves like our parents’ graves.”

Their parents, Shirl and Margie Loving, are buried there.

Taking care of the grounds at Sherwood is a family legacy. Shirl Loving also worked at the memorial park for 29 years.

“There’s a lot of work that people don’t know about that goes on behind the scenes,” Donnie said.

The brothers thought back to when they first started.

Ronnie Loving is 10 minutes older than his twin.

“It was winter, in December, and there was snow on the ground,” said Ronnie. “I was wearing a pair of tennis shoes, before I started wearing boots, and my feet were frozen before the end of the day.”

Donnie recalled that first day of work was after an all-night skate, and “I didn’t go to sleep that night.”

The two grew up in the Butt Hollow neighborhood of Glenvar, and went to school at Fort Lewis Elementary, South Salem Elementary for a year and then Glenvar High School.

They worked in a florist shop and a motorcycle shop before coming to Sherwood full time.

Donnie, who is 10 minutes older, works part-time now, but Ronnie is still full time. Donnie continues to live on Sherwood grounds, in a house on Evans Street, near the maintenance shop. Ronnie still lives in the neighborhood where they grew up. They have an older brother, Billy.

Neither Donnie nor Ronnie has any plans to retire any time soon, they said.

“Things have changed since we’ve been here,” said Ronnie. “There’s a lot better equipment. We used to clip around the grave markers with hand clippers. There weren’t any Weed Eaters then.”

And he added, “Sherwood has the best equipment of anybody around.”

In their leisure time, the brothers ride Hondas. “We have eight of them,” Donnie said. “I’ve been riding since I was 16 years old,” his brother said. “I actually feel safer than in a car.”

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