owner addresses issues
Class action lawsuit filed, grave markers
Cindy DiFazio, Contributing Writer
Proud family names once inscribed on bronze plaques to mark the
graves of loved ones lost are now affixed to lawsuits. A class action
lawsuit filed by family members against Grandview Memorial Gardens
Cemetery in Madison is an attempt to retrieve misappropriated funds
along with the credibility and dignity the Madison facility once
Along those lines, at the Sunday, August 19 meeting of approximately
350 people held at the Venture Out Business Center in Madison, Keith
Mefford, present Grandview owner, attempted to address the many
problems facing those with family already interred at Grandview
as well as folks who have purchased plots and services not yet used.
Mefford began by giving an overview of subjects he would touch on.
They ran the gamut from the current status of the cemetery and lawsuits
to recent attempts to maintain the grounds and end the ruthless
thefts of bronze grave markers that cost the families more than
Mefford semi-jokingly referred to himself as the alleged owner
of Grandview Memorial, a reference to how he is named in the
lawsuit. He went on to give a timeline of events since his purchase
of Grandview in July, 2005. That is when he bought the property
on contract from Madison Funeral Services, Inc. Mefford maintains
that only four months after his purchase he began to realize that
things were not as he had anticipated. He says that finances had
been mishandled and improper burials had taken place.
Mefford reports that he attempted to work with the previous owner,
Madison funeral director James Holt, for months only to find out
someone else, allegedly Larry Fox, had bought Madison Funeral Services.
I dont know who the owner is, Mefford told the
crowd. Still, he went on to say, We felt like
we had the attorney general and the prosecutor to help us out.
Reportedly, neither agency has been helpful. The bottom line is,
Mefford stated, Not a lot has changed.
Then Mefford offered information about some very specific aspects
of Grandviews problems as well as some possible solutions.
Mefford reported that the Jefferson County clerks office has
recently released trust monies to Grandview. The bad news is that
there is only $90,000 in that fund. But, Mefford said, Hopefully,
we can deliver services again.
He also noted that people who made purchases from Grandview between
February, 2001 and July, 2005 can request reimbursement. Mefford
said that the owner during that time frame, James Holt, has taken
the stance that he will pay back that money.
For those who prepaid only to find out they did not get what they
paid for, Mefford suggested they contact the consumer protection
fund responsible for reimbursing them for the difference in what
they paid for and what they got. He warned that the reimbursements
are not easy to obtain, but encouraged folks to keep trying. Funeral
directors have the necessary paperwork to file for reimbursements.
Several people had questions regarding insurance coverage at the
cemetery. Mefford said that although Grandview is covered by insurance,
the insurance company doesnt know who Madison Funeral Services,
Inc. is, which is complicating the claims process. As to receiving
any help from the insurance company with pending lawsuits, Mefford
told the assemblage, They (the insurance company) can come
up with some real creative verbiage so that they dont have
to defend you in these lawsuits. Were fighting that battle
Adding to the problem, 100 complete files were lost in the arson
fire earlier this year. Mefford noted that the fire claim probably
will not be paid. He also said that whoever set that fire also took
books showing where family plots are located making it very difficult
to know where new burials are to be. He told participants, I
hope youve kept your paperwork.
In yet another cruel twist, at least 200 of the 500 bronze markers
at Grandview have been stolen. Three people were taken into custody
recently after selling four of the markers for the paltry sum of
$74. Mefford encouraged people who have stored bronze grave markers
to take them home. I think they need to be in your possession,
Mefford then tackled the subject of property upkeep. He shared that
he had a phone call from a fellow who was very upset about the lack
of grass mowing and weed eating being accomplished at the cemetery.
It only takes about $5 to do that, the gentleman told
him. The reality is that each mowing costs about $450 and Grandview
has not had any money from the Perpetual Care Fund since March,
2006 when they were paid $1,264 by the fund. We realize that
it looks horrible, Mefford admitted, and it breaks my
heart. He asked that interested parties join in the volunteer
clean-ups being organized regularly by volunteers rather than mowing
and weed eating on their own. It looks like a checkerboard
because people are coming in mowing and weed eating in patches.
You cant do that, he told the group.
Another huge issue has been the disinterment of cyrpts thought to
be the wrong caskets or leaking or both. Mefford told the crowd
that the standard cost of opening/closing a grave is $1,695. That
is the kind of service that requires a backhoe, several staff members
and a funeral director. Its a lot of work requiring
a lot of time, he noted. However, he offered a couple of options
for those who want to know the status of a particular plot. For
$50, a test hole can be drilled 1/4" into a lawn crypt. Then
a dowel rod can be inserted to check for water. This service may
be requested between the months of September and April, when the
water table is higher. It would be a waste of $50 to try it
right now, Mefford explained. A traditional opening/closing
of a grave normally costs $650. Grandview has lowered that cost
to $500 which would allow the lid to be taken off of the crypt so
the purchaser can make sure it is the casket they bought and that
it is dry. A funeral director must be present for that option. Mefford
also said that it is okay to not disturb the grave at all. If
you choose to leave it as it is, I understand that, too, he
assured. Mefford noted that the way to pursue any of the grave opening
options is to call a funeral home and have a funeral director make
In conclusion, Mefford summed up by saying, We need your help.
Volunteer. Become involved. Were going to do our best to fix
things, but weve got a long road to travel.