The Man Who Walked More Than a Little: An Interview with Arthur DerBoghosian
In this installment of “Eternally Green”, I wanted to break away from articles in which staff share insights and promote green initiatives, to seek the perspective of a longtime visitor. I sat down with Arthur DerBoghosian, Watertown resident and regular walker at Mount Auburn (pictured above with Mount Auburn’s Coco Ortiz-Ortiz and Luis Santiago) for more than 30 years. I aimed to glean his opinions on the changing landscape, the balance of aesthetics and wildlife habitat, and the public expectations for an active cemetery.
We met at the Operation Center on a rainy Friday. Arthur, or “Art” is 84 years old and he exudes the vibrancy of one who leads an active lifestyle. Art is quick with a joke and a laugh, and has developed many friendships with Mount Auburn staff over the years that he has walked the cemetery grounds.
Why did you choose Mount Auburn for your walking destination?
“I have spent my entire life in this area. I can walk from home most of the year, and in the winter, park my car and safely walk the well-plowed roads inside of the cemetery. I have extended family buried here and I own a lot off of Spelman Road. Mount Auburn is a beautiful place. I call it an oasis in the city.”
Do you have a particular route that you follow?
“I walk the perimeter roads, and circle Asa Gray Garden and Willow Pond.”
Do you ever deviate from your route?
“Yes, when my family joins me, I like to go to Consecration Dell to show everyone where the salamanders live and lay their eggs. I also like to show them the Paperbark Maples. I worked in the paper industry for years and I love the bark.”
Over the years, what changes on the grounds have you noticed most at Mount Auburn?
“I have often wondered what you (Mount Auburn) are going to do to create more grave space before you eventually run out. I really like Birch Garden, and the memorial wall by Willow Pond really stands out. They are beautiful and create more space.”
As a lot owner, what are your expectations of a cemetery?
“I like to see things crisp and clean, the lawn taken care of, as well as the gardens. Mount Auburn does this better than anyone. I believe that 99% of people would agree with me.”
Are you aware of Mount Auburn’s mission to not only provide a beautiful, garden cemetery for visitors and lot owners, but to balance that with creating and protecting habitat for wildlife?
“Yes, I think so. I have noticed the aerators in the ponds and the work done near the shore. I have seen the birds and turtles and figured you (Mount Auburn) were helping them. It looks great.”
Do you feel that this (wildlife habitat conservation) is a reasonable endeavor to undertake for an active cemetery?
“Absolutely, as I mentioned before, Mount Auburn is an oasis in the city. Where else will people be able to see all this. I like to see things crisp and clean, but not everything has to be this way. Some areas could be wild, like Consecration Dell could be left natural. Strike a balance. That’s a good thing.”
Do you think Mount Auburn should expand its role as a living laboratory for scientific study and educational opportunities?
“Yes. You are the people with the knowledge. You should share it. I’m sure many people will like to learn about what you are doing. It will draw more people in.”
You have made many friends among the Mount Auburn staff. What are your thoughts about that?
“Well, all the guys who work on the grounds do a great job. I don’t know if a message came down from above to treat everyone respectfully, but everyone here is so friendly and willing to listen to a story, or tell a joke. It makes walking here even better.”
Have you taken any ideas from the gardens or tree and shrub collection to implement at home?
“I’m more of a food grower, tomatoes really. But I could see planting some of the shrubs I have seen here at my house, near the foundation.”
Would you like to share a memorable moment at Mount Auburn?
“One of my sons had his wedding pictures taken here. We love them.”
How about a memorable moment with the staff?
“Last year, I hadn’t been in for a walk for a while and when I finally came in, CoCo and Louie told me that…we check your lot every day to see if you are still with us! It’s great to have friends like that.”
It’s great to have regular visitors like Arthur DerBoghosian. His appreciation of the landscape and wildlife bolsters the importance of urban, green spaces that bring people closer to nature. Art puts it best himself when he calls Mount Auburn…”an oasis in the city.” Thank you, Art.