Henry Priebe, gravedigger, to rest forever where he toiled

July 06, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Henry Priebe spent more than 40 years digging graves with a pick and shovel for less than a $1 an hour at Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery.

At 2 p.m. today, services will be held for the 99-year-old Baltimore native at the Frederick Avenue graveyard where he worked from 1916 until 1958. Mr. Priebe died Friday at the Guggenheimer Nursing Home in Lynchburg, Va., succumbing to a high fever brought on by infection.

"I believe hard work is what made him live so long," said Melvin Priebe, his son. "He was making $1.15 an hour when he retired in 1958 and before that it was about 75 cents an hour or less. He worked six days a week with no overtime.

"He worked in the rain, the snow, the sun. They didn't quit for weather," the younger Mr. Priebe said. "I remember he used to come home for lunch in the winter and have to eat standing up because his clothes would be frozen on his back."

Part of the reason Mr. Priebe was loyal to Loudon Park for so long, his son said, was that it provided steady work during the Depression years when so many other people lost their jobs.

Born in the neighborhood around St. Benedict Street between Wilkens Avenue and the cemetery, Mr. Priebe went to school through the third grade before getting a job at the old Wilton Dairy. He delivered milk from the dairy off Wilkens Avenue to Gay Street and Broadway and eastside neighborhoods along the waterfront.

Before joining the grounds crew at Loudon Park, Mr. Priebe worked loading freight on trucks and also at a city brickyard, making bricks and hauling them to customers with a horse and wagon.

"He was strong as a bull; I think all that hard work is what made him that way," said his son, with whom Mr. Priebe lived for the past 30 years, first in Pasadena and then in Lynchburg. "Right up until before he died, he had as strong a grip as I have."

Mr. Priebe had been married five times -- outliving two wives and being divorced from three.

In addition to his son, Mr. Priebe is survived by three daughters, Josephine P. Castell of Hemet, Calif., Elizabeth P. Howser of Pasadena, and Louise Priebe, formerly of Baltimore; and a sister, Marie Henn of Baltimore.

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