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"Been digging graves a long time," Dorsel Bibbee says from the kitchen of his log home in rural, snow-covered Southeast Ohio." Started in '53, helping a fella down below Tuppers Plains. Vern Shields. Called him Ben. I told him, I said, 'I don't know what to do' and he said 'just watch me.' So that's what I done." Bibbee pauses and then continues, "He died in '66 and I just kept on workin'."
Bibbee spent most of this time digging alone and by hand, using only a shovel, mattock, spade, and pick to help lay people to rest—even after the work had become mechanized in the rest of the state. And although younger crew members and machinery assist him with the heavy labor now, the 81-year-old continues to head out in whatever weather besets the landscape to ensure that the plots are well-measured and the walls are smooth and straight.
He’s been working for so long that he’s now dug graves for three generations of several different families in the region. He remembers much about life and death. As he recalls the past, stories about the lives of the people for whom he has dug graves begin to mingle with the memories of the conditions in which he dug for them, whether it was sweltering heat, biting cold, or wind that once tore a church roof half-off.