Former gravedigger Adrian "Ace" Coughlan will never forget the day he nearly buried himself alive.
It was 40 degrees in the shade at the Walwa Cemetery more than 20 years ago when, with no ladder in a freshly dug hole, he struggled to claw his way out.
"I sort of cramped up a bit in the heat, I never used a ladder, I just used to pull myself out when I was finished digging," the Murray Valley retiree said.
"This was hard, though - when I finally managed to get out, I just put my shovel down and made my way to the pub where I told my mates about it."
He said his experiences maintaining the cemetery were not all traumatic.
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In 1974, Mr Coughlan's father, Jack, who was secretary of the Walwa Cemetery Trust, encouraged his son to follow in his footsteps.
"I'd already been digging graves before then, it's contracted now, but back then it was all hands-on, on the tools," he said.
"It was pretty tough going back then, it was all pick and shovel."
Now 80, after nearly a lifetime in the business - in which he laid to rest countless friends and acquaintances from the close-knit community - Mr Coughlan is now a life member of the cemetery trust.
"I'm on it for life and there's only one way to get out of the bloody job," he said. "I guess they put me on because I was silly enough to keep doing it.
"My job now is to maintain the records properly - a lot of them were destroyed in the bushfires of '39 which was not a good thing to happen.
"So now we make sure that the records are stored in a few different places and up in the Cloud."
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