"Been digging graves a long time," Dorsel Bibbee says from the kitchen of his log home in rural, snow-covered Alfred, 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 remembers stories about the people for whom he has dug graves and remembers the conditions in which he dug for them, as well, whether it was sweltering heat, biting cold, or wind that once tore a church roof half-off. He spent the majority of his career digging in those conditions by himself 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.
Although today he has accepted assistance from younger crew members and heavy machinery, the 81-year-old continues to take pride in helping to ensure the graves are well-measured and the walls are smooth and straight. This commitment has made him an important fixture in a collection of small southeast Ohio's communities, where he's now dug graves for the parents, children, and grandchildren of several families.