CRESTVIEW — When Mary McTear died of pancreatic cancer in 2014, her children buried her in a local cemetery.
But when they visited her there, they weren’t happy with the way her grave was maintained and, last fall, paid for her to be moved to Live Oak Cemetery. She was buried a second time Oct. 13, 2017.
Her family gathered for her second burial and held a graveside service.
But on Friday night, her oldest son, Aramis Martin, received a disturbing message on Facebook. A Crestview woman told him that his mom had been mistakenly buried in one of eight plots her family had purchased more than 50 years ago.
Monday afternoon, Martin called the cemetery and was told his mom had been dug up and moved “just a few spaces down.”
“(My mom) would be extremely disrespected and disappointed,” he said. “When we moved her in October we expected that to be her final resting place. Obviously it was not.”
Maureen Baker was the woman who contacted Martin. She and her partner, Sue Hall, discovered the mistake when they went to the cemetery Friday to visit Hall’s brother’s grave. James Hall was just 21 when he was killed in Vietnam.
“We were shocked to death that someone was in our family plot,” Sue said, adding that she panicked and initially thought she was seeing her sister Margie’s name on the new stone. “All I see is the beginning of a word, headstone and slab. I almost had a heart attack.”
Baker called the cemetery repeatedly to express the family’s dismay and to ask for immediate action to be taken. Staff members relocated McTear Monday morning, with a licensed funeral director supervising the process, but without notifying her family.
David Chapman bought Live Oak Cemetery in 2012 and has been in the funeral business for decades. He told the Daily News on Wednesday that he was out of state when the problem was discovered, but that staff members apologized to both families and corrected the problem.
He said that McTear had just been “put in the wrong spot.”
“The grave was marked,” said Chapman. “I have two people who go and check the mark. We were just a few paces off from where we should have been.
“We made a mistake,” he added.
Both families remain angered by the lack of what they consider proper and timely communication from cemetery staff members.
Aramis said that had they been given notice, members of his mom’s family would have come to the ceremony for her third burial.
“From my perspective, I understand mistakes happen,” Aramis said. “But when I called to find out about the mistake, they had already moved the grave.”
Baker said the Hall family would have liked a minister present to bless the plot and the transfer, for both parties’ sake. She said they were also disappointed that the grave was disturbed and that, despite efforts to restore it, the plot still looked like it had been recently used.
Chapman could only say that he regrets the mistake his staff made, but, he maintains, his staff handled McTear’s re-interment properly. He said staff members tried and failed to reach Martin over the weekend.
“Does this happen very often?” Chapman said. “No, I’ve got institutional controls in there that doesn’t allow us to do that.
“We just didn’t count right.”
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