Kevin Buck is the first to admit it: Grave hunting “is not something most people would consider mainstream.” But he’s been involved in the hobby for more than a decade, traveling to graves of pop culture icons to take a photo and leave a tribute.
“I get the kind of double take and the blink-blink of the eyes, and I kind of understand the reaction,” the Shrewsbury resident said. “I do understand there’s a very negative connotation associated with graveyards.”
But Buck said that, for him, it’s been very peaceful and relaxing. His interest was piqued during a trip to California to visit a site where some relatives were buried. As his cousin pointed out some other graves, Buck felt drawn to them.
Buck compiled some of his tributes in blog posts until his friends started asking for more. In November, he published “Looking for Miss Crabtree: And Other Confessions of a Gravehunter,” with almost two dozen tributes.
He relies on the Internet to find information and locations of lesser-known graves. Then, before he leaves on a work trip — as the director of risk and security for Bally Total Fitness, he travels fairly often — he’ll research surrounding areas to see if anyone nearby might be worthy of a tribute.
“I will visit just about anybody I think worthy, even if its a name I don’t know,” Buck said. “If my research says, hey, they were one of the original Keystone Cops, I will stop at the grave and see them.”
Before he goes, he considers what the celebrity meant to him and what he can thank him or her for. His interest in a wide range of film stars and musicians comes from being the youngest of five children and growing up among plenty of different influences, he said.
Buck included his email in the book so that other grave hunters could email him with questions or to share their own tributes. Now, he’s seeing emails trickle in with praise for the book.
It wasn’t all easy, though: Buck has been turned away from graves and followed incorrect information that led to dead ends. In licensing some of the photos, he said he learned “more about copyright law that I really cared to know.”
Despite setbacks, Buck loves to share the information he finds. Up next, he’d like to expand beyond Hollywood stars, perhaps visiting graves for the signers of the Declaration of Independence or influential musicians.
“When I start to talk to people, there is always some kind of information that I can pull from people about what they’re interested in,” Buck said. “I can relate it to some tribute I’ve done, and seeing that sparkle in their eyes when they remember something is just a joy.”
Lives in: Shrewsbury
Family: Wife, two children, a dog named Jasmine
Occupation: Director of risk and security for Bally Total Fitness
Hobbies: History, Civil War era, music
Online: Purchase “Looking for Miss Crabtree” at www.kwbuck.com