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The Student News Site of Arcata High School

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The winner of the 2024 Kinetic Grand Championship: HumBULLdt Pie Factory
Competing for the glory at the annual Kinetic Grand Championship
Ryenne Kile and Taya HolmesJune 12, 2024

The 2024 annual Kinetic Race took place over Memorial Day Weekend. It launched on Saturday, May 25 at 12:07 p.m. from the Arcata Plaza and concluded...

Cast of Alice by Heart bowing at the end of closing night
Down the rabbit hole: A review of “Alice by Heart”
Ilana Maclay, Feature editor • June 12, 2024

Lights fade. Drapes open. The audience falls quiet. The Spring musical production of “Alice by Heart” opens with a beautiful image of Alice...

Ethnic studies class postponed yet again
Taya Holmes, Copy Editor • June 12, 2024

California will be the first state to implement a high school graduation requirement for an ethnic studies class. California is requiring that...

Bathrooms vandalised, students suspended
Caterina Morones, Production Manager • June 12, 2024

Admin closed multiple bathrooms until further notice due to accounts of vandalism, vaping, and other disrespectful acts. Principal Ron Perry...

Gary: The man behind the cemetery gate
Andrea Merezko, Social Media Director • June 12, 2024

When one goes to school it isn't plain to the mind what surrounds the school campus. Whether that’s coffee shops or gas stations for snacks...

Gary: The man behind the cemetery gate

When one goes to school it isn’t plain to the mind what surrounds the school campus. Whether that’s coffee shops or gas stations for snacks in between classes. Sometimes, we’re blind to the fact there is a cemetery of lost loved ones right by the school. The Greenwood Cemetery stands as one of the oldest cemeteries in Humboldt County,  as well as in the state of California recalling back to being in service since 1851. Amidst the serene setting of towering gravestones and lush foliage, one may ponder about the caretakers responsible for the deceased individuals who have become a part of the earth.

Who is the man who keeps the dust off the tombstones and trims the grass around the graves, and throws out the old dried-up flowers after the loved ones left them months ago? Gary O’Neill, a former Arcata High School student, as well as a former janitor for the AHS campus itself. Just beyond the fence, he makes sure all the ones who are lying at rest stay at peace. Between passing periods, he stands behind the gate and observes all the students as they scatter to their cars, run to their next classes, or even cut class. He has a bird’s eye view of the school and sees everything beyond the campus. O’Neill had strong enough ties to find the Greenwood Cemetery position by simply working close to the area. 

“I originally got the job as a gig for the day. Being asked to mow the lawn one day turned into me working at Greenwood for seven years,” he said  I got offered this job while working at Arcata High School working as a custodian.”

“I eventually became a double dipper, worked at the graveyard for the AM then jumped the fence to work at the high school. Best of both worlds. I mow the lawn, make headstones, dig dead bodies, and chase gophers,” he said.

If these things listed sound good, apply to work at a graveyard. He describes his job as “easy peasy lemon squeezy,”  but it’s much more than what it seems to be. He states that managing “hundreds of tombstones isn’t for the weak,” as every job has its downfalls. Still. O’Neill finds working at Greenwood Cemetary rewarding.

“I’m on top, literally. In all seriousness, being able to know that I’ve helped a family from Point A to Point Z, having let them know that the one who passed away is here so that they can come to see them. I think that, for me, is one of the most gratifying things,” he said. “We are the keepers of their loved ones. Getting to support the families through that entire process is really cool without being fully involved with the church. It’s precious.”

 All the bodies lie at rest in Greenwood, including esteemed members who have left an indelible mark on the community’s history. Among those who are entombed are veterans from the Civil War, law enforcement officers, bootleggers from the Prohibition era, and many other vulnerable residents. After almost a decade of working as a groundskeeper, everything came to a close eventually. O’Neill will be retiring from Greenwood Cemetery. He plans on being a substitute janitor for the Arcata High School campus to continue maintaining its cleanliness. When you see him around, make sure to wave to Gary



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