Hypothetical Scenario

Published by at April 11, 2016 9:17 am

Member Deacon Doug Breiding
Director of Catholic Cemeteries
Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

poses this hypothetical situation:

John J. Smith bought 20 graves (right of easements) in Saint Sebastian Cemetery. Mr. John Smith purchased them on 1953 for $1,100.

In August of 2009 a Ms. Joyce Jones (granddaughter of John J. Smith; original owner of easements) called Saint Sebastian Cemetery and was questioning about the John J. Smith’s lot. She wanted to know how many graves were on those Lots and how many graves were still available. Additionally, she wanted to know the procedures in selling back the available graves. Connie (Cemetery Secretary) told her, per Bob Mc Bride (Cemeterian for St. Sebastion Cemetery), there were a total of 14 graves available and that she needed the original certificate of the Lot Owner and a letter stating her intention and it was to be notarized.

Later in the same month of August, Ms. Joyce Jones called back and told Connie she will be sending the original Certificate and Notarized Letter to sell back the graves to Saint Sebastian Cemetery for the total of $770. This total reflects the price at the time of original purchase at $55 per grave. Ms. Joyce Jones is the daughter of George V. Jones and Mary Lou Smith Jones (daughter of John J. Smith; original owner of easements). She is the Certified Appointed Personal Representative of the estate of George V. Jones. Mary Lou Smith Jones is already deceased.

In September of 2009 a check was written to the estate of George V. Jones for $770 from Saint Sebastian Cemetery.

In February of 2016, Mr. William J. Smith, Jr. (Grandson of John J. Smith; original owner of easements) comes into Saint Sebastian Cemetery Office demanding to know the activities of the “Smith Lots”. Connie started gathering information about the Smith Lots from the scanned Lot Cards. He demanded copies of all information about the Smith Lots. Mr. Smith wanted to know who and how the graves could be sold back to the Cemetery. Mr. Smith stated to Connie that the Smiths owned the property. Connie corrected him by stated they had a right to be buried there and the Church owns the property.

Mr. William Smith, Jr., explained that he was at a luncheon with Mr. Larry Black. Mr. Black made reference that they were going to be neighbors at the Cemetery because he purchased easement rights in the cemetery. This is what prompted Mr. Smith coming to the Cemetery demanding information about the Smith Lot.

Mr. Smith was explaining who all was buried there and did not understand how, his cousin Ms. Jones was able to sell the graves back to the Cemetery.

In short:

John J. Smith bought 20 easement rights back in 1953.

Ms. Jones’s mother Mary Lou was a Smith and she, Cynthia, possessed the Original Right of Easement Certificate and represented her father George V. Jones husband of Mary Lou who was deceased and was closing his accounts back in 2009.

Check was made out to the estate of George V. Jones after the necessary paperwork was received at Saint Sebastian Cemetery, which has been the standard operating procedure of Saint Sebastian Cemetery. Cynthia had in her possession and surrendered the original certificate to the Cemetery.

The Cemetery, in turn, sold the easement rights to Mr. Larry Black and others back in September 2009.

Mr. William J. Smith finds out that the Lot where his grandparents and his parents are laid to rest has no graves available for him or his family to be buried in February 2016.

Hypothetical Scenario:

If the graves were not sold and Mr. William J. Smith passed away there is not documentation on file that shows he has any burial rights to be buried in that Section and Lot nor do any of his family members.

It is the typical, “Everyone assumes family knows who and where people are going to be laid to rest.” But there is no documentation.

I guess the question we are asking is:

Was the Cemetery’s procedures proper or is there a better way of dealing with this style circumstance?