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?
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