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Homeless Man Recruited for Cemetery Gig

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(Courtesy: KTXL)

By Lonnie Wong

Marysville, CA (KTXL) — The cash-strapped Marysville Police Department has recruited a homeless man to be the caretaker at a vandalism prone cemetery in exchange for a roof over his head.

Donald “Shortstack” Oliver will live in a city-leased trailer overlooking the historic Marysville Cemetery, which has sustained $28 thousand in damage over the past year.

“I never thought in my lifetime I’d be overseeing a graveyard, but hey the good Lord has his ways,” said the 58-year-old Oliver.

He has been homeless for three years, but has spent much of that time trying to aid fellow homeless people and police. Oliver is a known quantity to cops, who have now intrusted him to oversee the gravestones that date to 1850 — long before California was a state.

“You should respect the people who are buried here. Each life, every headstone has a story.
It represents a life that’s been lived and you should respect that,” said Oliver.

Standing over smashed headstones, Oliver said destroying them is a senseless act. He and his dog Rosie are hoping to halt the vandalism.

Roberta Shurtz and volunteers from the Marysville Cemetery Commission are restoring old gravesites. She hopes that Oliver’s presence will deter the vandalizm problem which has plagued the cemetery for years. Shurtz said the last time there was an on-site caretaker was about 20 years ago.

“We’re hoping it will prevent future vandalism,” said Shurtz.

Oliver has already cleared away years of brush in his first week on the job. He’ll keep a watch out for vandals after hours.

The cemetery is next to a high school and a popular bike trail. Oliver will call the police if he sees anything suspicious.

“It’s like a step up for me because I’ve been homeless. I got something to do now that’s worthwhile,” said Oliver.

Police say they hope his mere presence will deter people from illegally entering the property after hours.

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