Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of The Friends 2021 Vol. 1 - Page 5

sweet auburn | 2021 volume i
By the spring of 1993 , the Master Plan was complete but I had not yet found a Director of Horticulture candidate who I felt was the right fit . I reached out to Dave and asked him to come up for a visit . Mount Auburn being a cemetery and not well known as an arboretum and botanic garden in the AABGA world in which Dave was a long-time player , I had my work cut out for me . He and his young family were happy at Planting Fields where he anticipated becoming Director . But I managed to convince him to at least come and see Mount Auburn , and like so many other dubious first-time visitors , he was smitten .
I talked up my vision of not only improving the already high quality of the landscape but of expanding visitor programs and giving new focus to our history , sculpture , and architecture . Dave seemed intrigued but there was another obstacle . Having lived in company housing , he had no realestate equity , and the Boston area was expensive . But in June he agreed to be interviewed by the Buildings & Grounds Committee and to bring his wife , Eileen , along . I arranged for a real-estate broker in Concord to show them around . Fortunately , Eileen fell in love with a house in Boxborough that they could afford and which had the land Dave required for him to create his own landscape . With the enthusiastic support of the Trustee committee , I offered Dave the job , and he agreed to start work on September 1 , 1993 .
Indicative of the strong professional and personal bonds that characterize Dave ’ s career , when he returned to Planting Fields to tell his boss that he was leaving , the Director , who had anticipated that Dave would succeed him and was very disappointed at the news , nonetheless told him it was a great opportunity and wished him every success .
In the fifteen years that we worked together , Dave ’ s expertise , many capabilities , and warm personality led me to promote him to ever more demanding positions with expanded responsibilities , including Cemetery operations , until he finally became Executive Vice President . When I took a three-month sabbatical in the fall of 2000 , he easily took the reins , although I was relieved on my return to have him say he was glad I was back !
We made the perfect team in so many ways . He provided the horticultural expertise that I lacked and proved to be an exceptional supervisor of the outdoor staff , allowing me to concentrate on Trustee relations and our growing interpretive and fundraising programs . He introduced me to the botanic garden world while he learned about the cemetery world . In all that time I honestly can ’ t remember a time we had a serious disagreement . His work ethic and ability to relate to every kind of person , whether trustee , staff , client , or visitor , made him indispensable and a great role model for us all . Thanks in large part to him , Mount Auburn became nationally recognized as the important botanic garden and arboretum it is , and under his leadership we embarked on many exciting new landscape improvements , implementing the all-important Master Plan .
One of the challenges I faced in 1988 upon becoming President was the need to expand our interment space , and Dave played a critical role in our achieving success while at the same time introducing new gardens that enhanced Mount Auburn ’ s landscape . Spruce Knoll , Halcyon Garden , Willow Pond Knoll , and Birch Gardens are just four examples . Dave managed the dredging of our three ponds and helped me bring the four Japanese Maples from the Boston Public Library to Asa Gray Garden . Having secured the support of Anthony Ruggiero to fund the Willow Pond walkway , I then worked with Dave and Mr . Ruggiero on the dramatic reworking of the Bigelow Chapel Lawn .
Dave took on responsibility for our work to improve the built environment as well . He played an important part in planning for the purchase of the Shick and Aggregate Industries properties across Grove Street that have recently been sold ( page 16 ). He helped me create the Preservation Services Building and also grew to be an effective ally in our fundraising endeavors . He played a central role in organizing our amazing 175th anniversary events . While as a country boy at heart he never became fully comfortable negotiating Boston ’ s streets and traffic or understanding its sometimes arcane social mores , he knew his way around the important community players in Cambridge and Watertown , including the sometimes cantankerous funeral directors . He was my close and essential partner in gradually building perhaps my proudest achievement : the superbly qualified and enthusiastic staff , all fully devoted to Mount Auburn ’ s new vision , that I left behind when I retired in 2008 . Dave had proven himself more than ready to become Mount Auburn ’ s thirteenth * President .
* Dave Barnett has served as the thirteenth President of Mount Auburn Cemetery , however , there have only been twelve individuals who have served as President ( with Oakes Ames serving twice ). And that is why Dave calls himself the twelfth , while others in this issue refer to him as the thirteenth President .