Mike Moore has spent most of his life caring for the dearly departed and the families they leave behind, so when the Chestnut Grove Cemetery manager position became available, it was nearly a no-brainer on whom to hire.
"He certainly has a broad experience in the business," said Art Anselene, director of parks and recreation for the Town of Herndon. "The previous manager knew Mike before, because they were from the same area."
Moore began oversight of the town's cemetery June 30.
"I HAVE AN OBLIGATION to the people we serve, to keep the cemetery as pristine as possible," Moore said, describing his job. "People need reassurance that everything is taken care of. It takes the pressure off them, so they can take care of the emotional needs."
Moore has been in the memorial business for more than 40 years. His father opened a memorial company in 1936, followed by the first cemetery, in 1945, in Smith County, Va. A second cemetery, in Washington County, Va., followed in 1958.
"I grew up in the business," said Moore, a Marion, Va. native. "The best training I received was at my father's side. For me, it was a natural thing to follow in the family business."
Moore bought the business from his father after retiring from active duty in the Army in 1964. He eventually sold the business in 1996, but remained in the field; most recently working as operations manager for Eastern Memorials and large sales specialist with National Memorial Park in Falls Church. Moore's son also entered the family business, but gave it up to become a professional paramedic. His daughter became an aerospace engineer with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center rather than continuing in the family tradition.
MOORE TAKES OVER operations of a cemetery that is as much a part of the town's history as Confederate John Singleton Mosby's March 1863 raid against the rail station in Herndon and the town's namesake, Capt. William Lewis Herndon. Chestnut Grove was established in 1872 by the Chestnut Grove Cemetery Association, but some of the earliest burials date back to the 1830s.
"That cemetery has a lot of history in it in terms of the citizens and families that have many generations buried there," said Moore, who now lives in Springfield. "The town takes it very seriously. We have people in the mornings that walk through the cemetery. It does have a very park-like atmosphere to it. People gain peace of mind when they visit.
"We have people who just drive through and others that have gone there to read a book. Other times people are there to pay their respects," Moore said. "The gates are never closed."
The town has owned the cemetery since 1997. Anselene said Chestnut Grove has about 140 burials a year.
"It was getting beyond the capabilities of the volunteer group, so the association approached the town," Anselene said. "It's a part of our historic preservation district. It's a place were everyone has someone buried."
PART OF MOORE'S JOB will be to direct the implementation of the master plan governing the capital improvements to the 25-acre site. The improvements, slated to be completed in phases, include the now installed rail and stone fence surrounding the property, the construction of administrative offices on site, creation of additional burial sites including areas for cremations and children's burials, building a community mausoleum for above ground burials and doing some landscaping and road improvements. The cemetery, said Moore, still has five acres of undeveloped wooded area.
"The cemetery is going to be reflective of the community," Moore said.
Anselene said the town sold bonds two years ago to pay for the improvements. In addition, the cemetery is its own enterprise fund, which means it is self supporting through fees generated for services rather than being part of the town's general operation fund.