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Volunteer Voices: An Interview With Walt Haber

Volunteer Voices: An Interview with Walt Haber

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 retiree from The Coca-Cola Company.  I’m not originally from Atlanta; I moved here in 1978 right after finishing college. I like to say that “I’m not from Atlanta, but I got here as soon as I could.”

How did you get involved in volunteering at Oakland?
I started a few years ago with a Martin Luther King, Jr. workday with the Gardens team. I also have a little retirement job leading bicycle tours, and one of the stops is Oakland Cemetery. Without fail, guests on those bike tours love the stop in Oakland. Maybe not as much as I do, but….

Why do you volunteer at Oakland?
I enjoy making a contribution to preserving and sharing the history and beauty of such a special place. It truly my favorite place in Atlanta. The mission of Historic Oakland Foundation is to “Preserve, Restore, Enhance, and Share” the cemetery. That pretty well captures why I love to do it.

The mission of Historic Oakland Foundation is to “Preserve, Restore, Enhance, and Share” the cemetery. That pretty well captures why I love to do it.

What do you do at Oakland?
I’m still involved with the Gardens team, and have added working with the PRO team to the repertoire.  They’ve taught me skills like repairing brick walls and grave markers. I enjoy volunteering at special events like Capturing the Spirit of Oakland, Sunday in the Park, Victorian Holiday, etc. I also serve as a guide for the Sights and Symbols overview tour, and school group and other private group tours.

What do you like most about volunteering at Oakland?
I think of this as being a three-legged stool, each leg being equally important. The first leg is the beauty and serenity of the place, the thing that drew me in initially. Next is the wonderful history represented in Oakland, and I love learning about it and sharing it. Finally, it’s the people I get to spend Oakland time with. I truly enjoy all the staff, volunteers, and even guests who appreciate Oakland Cemetery so much.

What is your favorite Oakland experience/memory/moment?
My favorite thing about my time at Oakland is when I see guests getting excited about what we’re doing here.  So often I hear people exclaim how beautiful it is, how interesting the stories are, and even ask how they can get involved.  I’m notorious for doing short impromptu tours for visitors to Oakland. I’ll say something like “Isn’t this a wonderful place?” They’ll ask a couple of questions, and that leads me to showing them more. (And then I encourage them to take a more formal tour.) One of my tour guide colleagues says that she’ll occasionally “Walt” a visitor and show them around….  I never thought my name would be a verb!

If you would like to volunteer Historic Oakland Cemetery, please email Special Events and Volunteer Manager Mary Fernandez at mfernandez@oaklandcemetery.com.

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