At the Nérac cemetery, Jean-Pierre Andral is the keeper of memory

the essential For more than thirty years, Jean-Pierre Andral has watched over the Nérac cemetery. A singular profession, which the man exercises with an intact passion.

Among the chrysanthemums that came to adorn the tombstones for the feast of All Saints, Jean-Pierre Andral ensures that the cemetery is perfect for the coming of the Néracais. Here, the cleanliness of the site is its hobbyhorse, just like the conviviality it brings, and this despite the setting which does not encourage cheerfulness. “I have seen families come here crying and leave with a smile” he remembers.

Behind his earrings, his ubiquitous tattoos and his black outfit, Jean-Pierre cultivates an astonishing sympathy. Selflessly, he informs families about the various tombs present here, sometimes even to descendants who wish to learn more about their ancestors.

“There are many secrets in the graves”

Some even come from Albi, so the welcome must be impeccable. “It’s very important to be kind. If you don’t like the job, you shouldn’t do it” insists the one who has been walking the graves for 32 years.

Albigensian by birth, Jean-Pierre made it all alone, moving forward in life according to the opportunities that presented themselves. Her tattoos also tell her story. Punk in his youth, peroxidized hair when he arrived in the royal city, the guardian has never left this life. His old rogue looks impose it, but his humor immediately relaxes the atmosphere. When asked what he likes about his job, he answers flatly: “Peace” before laughing. A communicative laugh that he knows how to put aside when it is necessary to be serious: “I like cleanliness, the fact of informing families.” It must be said that this man is a real memory on foot. “When I arrived here, there was no computer, nothing. But little by little, I was able to make a plan which included all the graves, with their types, the names of the deceased, and the depth” . From memory, he is thus able to position a tombstone only by means of a name, and to know if it is maintained or not.

“The cemetery is essentially management. But it is difficult to list all the graves. It contains a lot of secrets” analyzes the guard. Also working as a gravedigger, Jean-Pierre dug an incalculable number of pits, he who was also a firefighter for a few years: “It was special. I used to pick up the bodies and a few days later, I had to bury them. “

A local figure

Death, it does not frighten him: “By my profession, I have known death; in my arms, I felt it. But I understand that it can be frightening.”

Guardian is also to ensure respect for the premises. If he can come up with hundreds of anecdotes of inappropriate behavior in his garden, Jean-Pierre does not want to go into details and preserves a certain optimism. “People are afraid of death. So it’s not necessarily a place that many visit at night.”

With his gossip and his loud words, Jean-Pierre is a recognizable figure among a thousand. Passionate but also endearing, he loves his job and does not intend to interrupt the surveillance of the 3 500 tombs of Nérac any time soon.

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