EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE: Comforting Life after Death


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington is known as a very historical city. Many the structures and infrastructures are quite old, we know that. But did you know that many of the great minds behind them rest here. Our Extraordinary Person of the Week is taking care of their history and comforting life after death.

Oakdale Cemetery is a bit more than a final resting place.

- Advertisement -

“Pretty much anything that was built and constructed in this town(of yesteryear),” Eric Kozen said, “those people are buried here.”

It’s a land of stories living a comforting life after death. “It can be considered an outdoor museum, it can be considered an outdoor art gallery, it can be considered an arboretum,” Kozen said in describing the nearly 100 acre property.

Making sure the history of this landmark is protected through the generations is Eric Kozen, Oakdale’s superintendent.

“Pretty much wherever you go around to in town,” he said, “whether it’s been built or a road we drive on day in and day out, most of those invididuals are buried here. this is the Murchison lot, a prime example of what you find at the cemetery.”

It is the resting place of the architect behind a staple of Wilmington’s waterfront.

“One of the unique qualities is that most of our roads are depressed,” Kozen said as we walked the landscape.

Kozen previously was the site-manager for the Arlington National Cemetery. He’s overseen this iconic cemetery in Wilmington for 14 years now. It’s a job he is very passionate about.

“When we tell history of the cemetery,” Kozen said,”we interweave it within’ the evolution of the cemetery because what makes oakdale interesting is that over the past 165 years, you can see how the cemetery has changed and evolved over the time frame from victorian time frame to today’s time frame.”

Did you know the planes flying into Wilmington’s international airport fly over Arthur Bluethenthal’s grave at Oakdale? He’s the first Wilmingtonian to die in World War I.
In 1928, the airfield was named “Bluethenthal Field” in his honor, though the airport’s name itself has changed over the years.

It’s one of many stories Kozen knows well. He also knows a bit about compassion for those who visit.

“We as workers of the cemetery build upon these relationships with these individuals and families,” Kozen said, “and that’s truly what makes our jobs special. It’s that human interaction.”

Interaction that creates a comforting life after death.

“With us being here,” he said, “we’re somewhat of a servant to them but also a comforting person to them, because they can come and talk to us openly and freely.”

And that, Eric Kozen, makes you extraordinary.

For more information on a flashlight tour coming up as well as the history of oakdale cemetery, click here.