Behind the scenes: Digging into the history of the Edmonds Cemetery

Edmonds Memorial Cemetery. (Photos by Sam Spencer)

Introducing a new monthly feature, Behind the scenes, by the Edmonds husband-and-wife team of Sam Spencer and Diana Sheiness.

Cliff Edwards became the sexton at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery in 1990, eight years after Lawrence Hubbard had purchased and donated it to the City of Edmonds.  Prior to 1982, the cemetery had been owned by the Odd Fellows, who had not maintained it in good condition. However, since being taken over by the City of Edmonds. this historic cemetery has been restored and revitalized, in large part due to the efforts of Edwards, who remains in charge of maintenance and burials at this facility.

Cliff Edwards

Cliff got his start in the “cemetery” business after graduating from high school in Kelso, Washington, at which time he applied for a job mowing lawns with the Longview Parks Department. When he arrived for his new job, he was surprised to find that he’d be working not at a park, but rather at a cemetery, i.e., at the Longview Memorial Park.

Cliff Edwards is responsible for maintaining the cemetery grounds.

What began as a job mowing lawns quickly evolved into something different. A week after Cliff began the job, the sexton in charge of the cemetery had to move back east to take care of family. Cliff stepped into his shoes as backhoe operator, and later was promoted to the position of grounds superintendent. He has remained in the cemetery business ever since. Long married and father of five now-grown sons, Cliff will celebrate his 50th year in the cemetery business in February 2023.

A cemetery grave marker.
Preparing a gravesite.

Cliff deals primarily with funeral homes but is also responsible for the ongoing sales of burial sites within the cemetery.  When burials are scheduled, he prepares the gravesites with the help of a backhoe, a piece of equipment he has operated since his teenage years in Longview.  But at this time of year, the place you are most likely to find Cliff is atop a riding lawn mower somewhere on the grounds of the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

You can learn more about the cemetery here.

— By Sam Spencer and Diana Sheiness

Diana and Sam

Sam Spencer, a retired real estate broker, is a member of the Gallery North, an artists co-op located on Main Street in Edmonds. He has been an avid photographer ever since he was old enough to point a camera. His wife, Diana Sheiness, is a retired patent attorney who specialized in biotech and who enjoys writing. They have been married almost 38 years and in this column would like to celebrate those who work behind the scenes in Edmonds.

  1. Beautiful photos of the cemetery by an expert photographer. However, just a little update in the cemetery’s history. The Odd Fellows did own the cemetery from 1894 until 1946 when it was sold to funeral director Ben Swedberg, who had opened Swedberg’s Funeral Home in 1945. The name for the cemetery was changed to Swedberg Cemetery, a name seldom used; most people just called it the Edmonds Cemetery. When Ben Swedberg died unexpectedly in 1967, his estate sold the funeral home and the cemetery to Mr. and Mrs. Roy Baker. With no endowment fund for upkeep, it did become run down and even vandalized. The recently released booklet “A Place of Tradition: Edmonds Memorial Cemetery and Columbarium,” gives a detailed account of the cemetery’s history from the time the plot of land was deeded to the Odd Fellows by homesteader Thomas White.

  2. Back in the mid-1980’s I worked on the survey crew and resulting map of the Edmonds Cemetery to see what was there for the City of Edmonds.
    That was probably the strangest survey job I was ever involved in.

    Mom’s ashes are in the columbarium now. Dad’s ashes will join hers later this year.

    Good memories.

  3. Thank you Betty for correcting the article. I was distressed to read that the Odd Fellows were cited as being the ones to let the cemetery go downhill. Our recently published booklet “A Place of Tradition: Edmonds Memorial Cemetery and Columbarium can be found at the Edmonds Historical Museum, the visitor’s center, City Hall and the Frances Anderson Center. It was written by Betty Gaeng and is a wonderful history of the cemetery.
    Melissa Johnson- Edmonds Cemetery Board Member

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