Zygmunt “Ziggy” Koniecki stands in front of his groundskeeper truck at Oakview Cemetery, where he worked for 57 years. Koniecki’s last official day was June 10.

Zygmunt “Ziggy” Koniecki stands in front of his groundskeeper truck at Oakview Cemetery, where he worked for 57 years. Koniecki’s last official day was June 10.

Photo by Taylor Christensen

Oakview Cemetery groundskeeper retires after 57 years

By: Taylor Christensen | Royal Oak Review | Published June 19, 2024


ROYAL OAK — Oakview Cemetery on Main Street is a place of solitude, wildlife and beautiful scenery. Lining the gravel roads of the grounds are trees accompanied by gravestones with the names of those who have been buried there.

The sense of peace brings visitors to the cemetery and keeps them coming back, according to 74-year-old groundskeeper Zygmunt “Ziggy” Koniecki.

Koniecki began working at Oakview in 1967, when he was just 17 years old, and he has been there ever since. This year marked his 57th year working there, and also his retirement. He retired June 10.

“I started on April 1 (1967),” he said. “So I was skipping school, and then I found this job. I started here part time, and then I went full time.”

The job has been a mix of ups and downs, according to Koniecki, but what kept him around this long was the friendships he made along the way.

“Sometimes it was bad days and sometimes it was good days. And the good days were the days when we had a lot of fun here,” he said.

For many, thinking about working at a cemetery might seem rather depressing, but Koniecki said that his experience was never too upsetting.

Working with families who lost a loved one was certainly hard, but he said he was grateful to have been there to help put the deceased to rest.

“It’s very sad, and then after all of that they leave and we take care of the graves and everything,” he said. “Then it’s like an everyday thing and, you know, you let it go and go on with life again.”

Koniecki has made his mark on the grounds, saying that he had many friends who worked at Oakview over the years. He has even found friends in the people who frequent Oakview for walks or to visit a loved one.

Chris Kriss, a Royal Oak resident, has been visiting the cemetery for approximately four years. She utilizes the grounds to train for her backcountry backpacking adventures.

Kriss often walks 8 to 10 miles at a time on and around the grounds of Oakview. She stumbled across Koniecki one day in 2020, when he told her she was not allowed to walk along a fence near the woods.

What is special about Oakview is the amount of life that can be seen surrounding the graves of those who have passed. Those who visit will most likely catch sight of a runner, biker or walker at nearly all times of the day.

“It is like Ziggy said, it is very, very peaceful. There is so much wildlife” Kriss said. “And if you just start talking to people, soon you learn about their life, and then you have their phone number, and pretty soon you are checking in on them to see what you can do to help.”

Koniecki plans to enjoy his retirement to the fullest by traveling to places like Tahquamenon Falls, and by visiting his old Army base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Koniecki is also excited to take a trip to his wife’s home country, South Korea.