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Retiring Holyrood Cemetery foreman served thousands of Catholic families

Holyrood Cemetery has seen a lot of changes during David Leder’s 43 years on the staff. He is retiring Oct. 31. Photo: Nathan Whalen Holyrood Cemetery has seen a lot of changes during David Leder’s 43 years on the staff. He is retiring Oct. 31. Photo: Nathan Whalen

SHORELINE – Over the past 40 years, nearly 23,000 people have been buried at Holyrood Cemetery, and Dave Leder has played an important role in laying them to rest.

“We take pride in helping people and doing our job well,” said Leder, who joined the Catholic cemetery’s grounds crew in 1972, was promoted to foreman in 1994 and now is retiring.

Leder and his grounds staff are the ones who keep 80-acre Holyrood in good condition, as well as helping with approximately 600 funerals a year.

“Dave and his crew really shine,” said Richard Peterson, director of the archdiocese’s Associated Catholic Cemeteries. “The cemetery is beautiful and the families really notice.”

Leder’s seven-person staff increases to 11 during the summer season. Sometimes the seasonal employees include seminarians who spend time at the cemetery as part of their discernment process, Peterson said.

Leder and his crew are a daily presence at the cemetery, Peterson said. They lower caskets after funerals and help visitors place vases at their loved ones’ graves.

During Leder’s tenure, Holyrood (which opened in 1954) has expanded and changed to meet the needs of the Catholic community. Additional mausoleums, shrines to saints and columbaria for cremated remains have been constructed, Peterson said. Over time, families began choosing upright monuments and expressed the desire to have garden benches and older-style cemetery gardens installed. And as the Catholic community has become more diverse, so have the funerals, he said.

“To meet the wishes of the Catholic community, Dave has had to adapt,” Peterson added.

In addition, Leder and the grounds staff prepare for a variety of events at the cemetery, such as recently hosting priests, deacons and lay ministers for an educational workshop. Another change since the 1970s, Peterson said, is that Mass is celebrated at Holyrood more often — twice a month as well as on Memorial Day and All Souls’ Day.

“The main thing that changed is the church has become more involved in cemeteries,” Leder said.

Cemetery work has been a bit of a family affair for Leder: His dad worked at Calvary Cemetery in Seattle and Leder worked alongside his son at Holyrood for 14 years. When he retires Oct. 31, Leder said, he will miss his co-workers.

“I just appreciate my time here. It’s been good,” he said.


All Souls’ Day Masses

Mass will be celebrated on All Souls’ Day, Monday, Nov. 2, at three Associated Catholic Cemeteries.

Mass in English is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. at Holyrood Cemetery in Shoreline, Calvary Cemetery in Seattle and Gethsemane Cemetery in Federal Way.

Masses in Korean and Vietnamese will be celebrated at Holyrood and Gethsemane. Contact the cemeteries for times.

For a list of other Masses at the archdiocese’s cemeteries during November, visit the website.

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