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Volunteer Voices: An Interview with Phil Richerson

Oakland Cemetery relies on the incredible energy, dedication, and generosity of over two hundred volunteers. Working in the gardens, giving tours, staffing the Visitor Center, or giving countless hours at special and private events, Oakland volunteers never fail to amaze with their passion and commitment. We’ve asked some of Oakland’s volunteers to share their stories of how they became involved as Oakland volunteers and their experiences here.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a native Atlantan, who was born and raised in the Lakewood area during the seventies. This was before video games when you played outside from sunrise to sunset. So naturally, sports became an integral part of my childhood and adolescent years. My family at the time consisted of the world’s greatest mother, a hard-working military father and a grandmother who was raised on the farm and by faith. She raised me in similar fashion with a lot of yard work, the planting of gardens, and a true understanding of why this was the Bible Belt of America.

After high school, I followed in my father’s footsteps and served in the U.S. military. There, I served in the medical field, and my job was classified as an operating room technician. I was happy with that job, but trauma and being a first responder was where I found my passion. That enthusiasm led me to 25 years in various positions of public safety. Normally, I would say that I’m a jack-of-all-trades, but here at Oakland, it’s probably more appropriate to simply say I’m someone with an eclectic style.

These days, I work for a wonderful businesswoman and enjoy helping her achieving her goals. In my personal life, I’m learning how to slow down and enjoy what I have worked for over the years. An essential part of that is my time spent at Oakland.

How did you get involved in volunteering at Oakland?
I have spent years attending Oakland as a guest and have enjoyed many tours and events. Last September, on one of my trips here, I met Rosalind and Randy Hillhouse. They encouraged me to become a volunteer for the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween event, and here I am.

Why do you volunteer at Oakland?
After a long week of work, Oakland is where I come to decompress. It’s serenity and beauty help me find my peace within. I am able to walk away the stress, get fresh air, and connect with people on a different level than in my normal life.

What do you do at Oakland?
Currently, I help with special events and hope to soon be a tour guide on the “Sights, Sounds, and Symbols” tour once I complete my training. I am always willing to help wherever needed so who knows what the future here holds for me?

What do you like most about volunteering at Oakland?
It has to be all the wonderful people I have met, both volunteers and guests. It seems like the most genuine people of Atlanta find their way here, and I love meeting them.

What is your favorite Oakland experience/memory/moment at Oakland?
Every year, I look forward to the Capturing the Spirit Halloween event, but this past year was my first as a volunteer. Being involved most of the nights with the tours was very exciting for me, and seeing the tour many times was even more thrilling. It fascinated me to see the same story being told by different actors with their own personal touches. Every year, the performances of the actors get better.

If you would like to volunteer historic Oakland Cemetery, please email Special Events and Volunteer Manager Mary Fernandez at

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