COLUMBUS — The Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission recommended the operator of the Resthaven Memory Gardens cemetery fix the drainage system after hearing of complaints that graves often are flooded.
The nonbinding recommendation came after a late March hearing prompted by Nancy King, a Lorain County native now living in California, who filed a complaint against StoneMor, the owner of Resthaven, 3700 Center Road, Avon.
King filed the complaint and came to Ohio to attend the meeting after discovering the condition of the cemetery — in which her parents, Ralph and Julia King, are buried. She, like others, complained of large puddles of water; wet, unstable ground; and headstones almost completely submerged.
Kelly Whitaker, public information officer of the Department of Commerce, which oversees the commission, said the commission recommended StoneMor address the drainage issue with an overall plan to be submitted to King and the commission by the next meeting, June 13. The commission also suggested the plan be made public in some way on a social media site.
Katie Hildebrand, a local resident and administrator of the Facebook group called “Rescuing Resthaven Cemetery,” also attended the meeting with her husband, Dale Hildebrand. Although the recommendation isn’t mandatory, she said it is a start.
“It was frustrating at certain points, but at the end it started to look like we started making some small steps forward,” Katie Hildebrand said.
During the meeting, she turned over a petition with 1,650 signatures from residents who have seen or been affected by the condition of the cemetery.
The commission, under the real estate and professional licensing division of the Ohio Department of Commerce, has received complaints about the condition of Resthaven since 2012.
King filed her complaint Jan. 14 with the department, which sent it to StoneMor Partners with instructions to reply within 30 days. King received a copy of the reply, which she felt was unsatisfactory.
The letter from StoneMor said King’s parents’ graves weren’t flooded or damaged. The letter also said King hasn’t been to the cemetery in a number of years and doesn’t have a “firsthand experience” of the cemetery’s condition. The flooding issues, according to the letter, would be addressed “as soon as practical,” which would be sometime in the spring or summer.
Patrick Richey, regional vice president of operations for StoneMor Partners, attended the meeting on behalf of the company.
StoneMor refused to comment on the commission meeting. StoneMor Partners, based in Pennsylvania, manages 322 cemeteries and funeral home properties in 27 states across the country and Puerto Rico.