WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Barbara Baker called WWAY recently, concerned about the state of affairs at the cemetery where several of her family members are buried. She bought the plots at Calvary Memorial Cemetery more than a decade ago. Since then, the cemetery has changed hands, and she said things are not being kept up the way they used to be.
Barbara asked us to accompany her to Calvary Memorial cemetery on North 11th Street in Wilmington. She pointed out headstones overgrown with weeds and grass, and grave sites that are sinking in, while others have mounds of dirt piled two feet on top of them.
"It makes me feel terrible to know that this is a perpetual care cemetery, and it looks like this,” said Baker.
Visitors said ants are also a big problem.
"We bought ant killer and put it around the beds to kill the ants, that way we would be able to get to the graves,” said Harriet Garrett, whose uncle is buried at the cemetery. “It is not being well kept up. It is a nice graveyard, but it's not being well kept.”
Barbara called the owner of the cemetery to complain. She said it was not easy tracking down his number, and when she finally did a hold of him, Barbara said it did not do any good.
"The only time we get the weeds and grass from out around it is when we come out here and do it ourselves," she explained.
Calvary Memorial is not an old abandoned cemetery. In fact, people were being buried the day we visited.
We called the owner ourselves to find out what the problem is. Jack Krupicka did not want to go on camera, but explained that his operating budget is very small. While it is a perpetual care cemetery, the cemetery's endowment only generates about $5,000 a year. Jack said that does not come close to covering his operating costs for things like mowing and pest control. He said the lots sell for under a thousand dollars, and even less for families facing financial hardship. While customers appreciate the low rates, Jack said it only leaves him with enough money to mow the cemetery about 20 times a year.
As for the ant beds, he said it is a constant battle, and he only treats them when people call to complain. As for the plots where Barbara's loved ones were buried, she has called to tell us they have been spruced up considerably since we put in a call to the owner. He said he was confused as to which plots she had called to complain about, and sincerely apologized for the delay responding to her concerns.
There are laws in North Carolina regulating cemeteries. When it comes to for-profit cemeteries like Calvary Memorial, the law does require that there be a fund set aside for their perpetual care. However, the law does not define what perpetual care entails, nor does it set standards for how the grounds are to be kept up.