Cemetery record keeping under fire

Families allege plots have been resold

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A post on social media about a burial plot being resold has ignited a storm of controversy at the Yukon Cemetery. (Photo by Michael Pineda)

By Michael Pineda
Staff Writer

 

Yukon Cemetery is under a cloud of controversy.

A post on social media alleging the cemetery buried an individual in their family plot that did not belong has led to similar allegations from a number of people. 

Karla Hall recently learned a plot she bought in 2004 had a stranger buried in it.  Her granddaughter, Jennifer Clement, said she discovered a headstone had been placed over the gentleman’s grave that was in their family plot.

“Around the beginning of November, 2021, I was first suspicious after the burial of the gentleman,” Clement said. “It was difficult to determine if he was buried in our family plot or not, as the dirt after burial isn’t precise.”

She discovered the headstone had been placed on a visit to the cemetery on April 25 and said she notified cemetery manager Mike Weaver two days later. 

Clement said her mother had spoken with Weaver. She added there have been efforts to contact a cemetery board member without success. 

“If it weren’t for Ingram, Smith & Turner Funeral Home reaching out to assist us, we would have no progress,” Clement said. “They have done an amazing job working with us to assist both us and the family of the gentleman who is buried in our family plot.”

Clement said it is her understanding the cemetery will exhume the man and place him in his final resting place in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Jerri Smith says her family has been waiting for over a year to have their father exhumed. A plot purchased for her father already belonged to someone else, she said.

“My dad died on April 25, 2021,” Smith said. “It was probably a month later that he (Weaver) got in touch with my sister, who is the deed holder to the plot. He said that he was informed by the rightful owner that we had buried my dad in her plot and he wanted us to meet with him and some of my sisters did. 

“They had picked a different open plot for my dad and he had promised them maybe five other plots, because I think he was nervous about legal procedures. We were trying to be nice and said, ‘fine, that’s great, let’s do that.’”

Smith said the family expected exhumation to happen within a week or two. Instead, she said there were excuses ranging from weather to COVID-19.

“We were trying to be understanding, but now, enough is enough.” she said. 

Smith said the message left by Hall on social media was a catalyst.

“We saw other people were having the same issue or similar issues,” she said. “We were like, ‘oh wow, this is not just us. Other people are having problems with the Yukon Cemetery too.’”

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Both Clement and Smith said the lack of communication from the cemetery has been frustrating and added to the emotional toll. 

“We just want to finish the process and get him moved to his final resting place.” Smith said. “And so my sister keeps calling him back to find out why we can’t get this finished and, now Mike is not returning her phone calls. 

And it has been over a year now,” she said.

Weaver said he has talked to cemetery board president Joe Hanska and the whole board will need to agree on anything that is printed (in a story). The board will not meet again until next month. Until that point, he is not allowed to say anything, he said.

A message left with Hanska went unanswered.

“The fact we haven’t received a phone call or an apology speaks volumes,” Clement said. “We have zero confidence in the cemetery at this time. To alleviate future concerns I feel there needs to be major changes at the cemetery, starting with Mr. Weaver. 

“Also, the record keeping practices of the association are severely lacking,” she said. “They don’t have accurate records that reflect deed sales, which ultimately results in double selling of plots and heartache for families who have to go through this.
“Thankfully we have our deed to the plot the gentleman was buried in, as we were told by Mr. Weaver there was no record of sale of it. We would have no proof we owned that plot if the deed had been misplaced. A family should be able to have confidence in a cemetery when they purchase a plot.”

Clement advised other people who have a plot in the cemetery to double-check their records, make sure they have their deeds and visit to make sure their plot is not occupied by another person. 

“We shouldn’t have to do that, but it appears our situation is not an isolated event, so it’s happening more than it should,” she said.

For Smith’s family, frustration continues to mount as they haven’t been allowed to move on with the situation remaining unsolved.

“Why would Mike not follow through,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a big deal. We understand mistakes are made, but I don’t understand why he can’t follow through.

“It is causing us a lot of grief and heartache. He (her father) is the oldest of 12 siblings and we kept this from them because we thought it would be taken care of, but I had to let them know yesterday. 

It has become a big issue and big heartache for everybody,” Smith said.

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