ONLY ON 3 UPDATE: Family still concerned about messy gravesites
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Back in April, we told you about a family that was extremely upset about the condition of some relatives' gravesites. This weekend, the family came back to see if there were any improvements and to meet with the owner of Calvary Memorial Cemetery to talk things through.

"People shouldn't have to come to a graveyard and have to look for their loved ones because they are covered up,” said Terrina Henderson-Brooks, who has about 50 family members buried at the cemetery. “They come here to mourn, not to do work, not to be a gardener."

Henderson-Brooks said for the past several years, the sites have been subpar to say the least. She is concerned that the final resting places are not getting the respect they deserve, which means family members can't cope properly.

"It's important that people come because that's how they release some of their energy and mourning for their loved ones,” Henderson-Brooks said. “That's a way of letting go and releasing. So, to come here and not have that experience, it's very difficult. It's been aggravating for me because I can't come to mourn."

After meeting with cemetery owner Jack Krupicka, Henderson-Brooks says some of her worries have been eased, like the fact that a section which holds some of her loved ones was elevated. Krupicka assured her the extra height is to prevent flooding in that area. Henderson-Brooks and her husband think things have improved a bit since their last visit but say the cemetery still has a ways to go.

"It's a nice cemetery, and we want to keep it nice,” Henderson-Brooks said. “I think that Jack wants to keep it nice also. I think that maybe moving forward, he can think about some things that we discussed, and I think that we will see some improvements. My hope is that we will see some improvement."

Krupicka did not want to speak on camera but told us off-camera that he is the only one responsible for maintaining the entire seven-acre cemetery. He says the best thing for families to do is call ahead before they visit, and he'll be sure to have their sites cleaned up.

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I am back home in MD and see that some have seen the broadcast on Sunday about the cemetery. Unfortunately, only a piece of the story could be told in the 30 seconds alloted for the story. So one question is who is at fault? Basic placement of flowers on the graves and removing old ones would probably be the responsibility of whomever placed them; but this is not the problem. The basic everyday maintenance of the cemetery falls on Jack. So the grass being one foot tall, headstones laying around waiting to be placed and bags of trash would fall under his responsibility which is the natural upkeep of the property. But the big problem was not showcased!

In section 13 of the cemetery (as you come in on the far left hand side) he placed 4 1/2 feet of dirt over this section. Even though there are existing graves here, he continues to fill it with this 4 feet of dirt. Because of this mound of dirt, the existing graves were being covered up. This is the bigger problem! For the past two years I have watched this mound of dirt grow cover my 4 family members (Tom and Essie Mae Gist, Bristol and Ruby Richardson) who were buried at ground level and become slowly consumed by this dirt. My uncle has a 5 foot concrete slab over his grave and in April, you could only see 4 inches of the slab. We couldn't place a headstone on my grandmothers grave because now she was then placed on a hill. Many graves were in jeopardy of being covered if not already. I called Jack to complain and he hung up on me and stopped answering the phone.

I came back to NC this past Friday and visited the cemetery. This is when I saw that the basic upkeep was still horrible and now, he dug up the four headstones of my family including the concrete slab and placed it on top of the 5 feet the dirt. Again, all 4 were buried at ground level and now their headstones were dug up and placed 5 feet on top of this mound. My 70 year old father, my husband and I took shovels, picks and week wackers to the cemetery and tried to clean up the area at least around the 4 graves. Weeds had already started to take over the concrete slab and two of he headstones. Now, one of the family members who is on the end plot is now placed on the hill of the mound and will eventually slide down.

I got on my hands and knees and tried to uncover plots of others in this section who will be soon lost in the mound of dirt. Most of them were war veterans who served our country (Agusta Bellamy, James Blue) with graves as recent as 2010.

We were able to get Jack to agree to see us at the cemetery because we told him we wanted to buy a plot. He drove up in his Range Rover from across town anxious to get our money. He told us that he doesn't upkeep the cemetery regularly because he has to come across town and this is a low-budget cemetery. He stated people pay $700 per plot which was a lie. I have about 50 family members in the cemetery and my cousin just purchased a plot for my cousin last month at $1300. I asked him over and over again if he needed any help and provided suggestions to help keep the cemetery clean and he declined our help. I told him that there were many in the area that needed a few extra dollars to make ends meet and would be willing to help our but still not interested. He is only interested in collecting money and gets away with it because nobody is holding him accountable. Instead, everyone continues to give him money and accepts the situation to be the way it is.

If I had not stayed on him, my 4 family members would be covered up right now and missing from the cemetery. I haven't had the opportunity to place flowers on graves because I've been too busy digging them out from under the dirt. My opinion is that the 4 feet of dirt was placed there for graves to be placed on top of other graves. In NC, you only need to bury someone 2 feet in the ground. Well if 4 feet of dirt is placed over an existing grave, you can surely place another one on top especially if there is nobody to complain. Again, this is just my opinion.

The bottom line is if you know anyone who has family in this graveyard especially section 13, encourage them to visit and complain if necessary. Jack's solution for me is when I'm in town, call him ahead of time so he can clean off the graves. What? It would be easy for me to say okay and the heck with the rest of the families that hadn't realized what's happening yet, but I can't. If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything. I couldn't say what I really wanted to say on TV so I kept it professional and on a positive light. But make no mistake, if we don't get up and stand up and demand respect who will?

This story lacks so many details, it's hard to determine what's what. Are the families paying for "perpetual care" of the grave sites, usually a monthly fee or an up-front payment made in advance? If so, then the cemetery owner needs to step up and fulfill his end of the contract. Speaking of which - money changed hands and property was transferred, so there is a written contract somewhere - what does that contract say? Is the owner meeting his end of the contract? If not, what are the family owner's rights? What is the policy of nearby Oakdale Cemetery? On any given weekend, there are dozens of family members out grooming the grave sites of their family members.
Again, so many un-asked and unanswered questions, it's hard to figure out who is at fault.

Please read about what happened at the cemetery. Maybe it will clarify some things.

In my family it has always been part of the ritual of visiting family graves.We replace the dead flowers, pull grass away from the headstones. pick-up any debris on the grave site. I understand there may be a contract for perpetual care, but is it worth all the drama and heartache to make every visit to a loved one a crisis over less than 5 minutes of effort?

Please read the comment posted. It may clarify a few things.