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Sunrise Memorial Gardens buries wrong bodies in family's reserved plots

11:55 AM, Feb 6, 2014   |    comments
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MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- When a Muskegon man tried to bury a family member, he discovered the cemetery plot he bought was already occupied. So he called 13 On Your Side to look into the matter further.

Jim Duram's in laws had a death plan for decades. "It's the last thing you want to deal with when a loved one has passed."

So when his father-in-law Valentine Kish died, the family never expected a problem. "That problem being that there were two individuals buried in the same cemetery plot," Duram said.

In 1964, Kish Valentine and his wife bought adjoining plots. They have a deed, family insurance, and called Sunrise Memorial Gardens a few years ago confirming everything was in order.

"A year later my mother-in-law received a phone call from the cemetery asking if they were interested in selling their two plots," Duram recalled. But the family did not sell their plots, and when the funeral came, Valentine had nowhere to be buried. The cemetery claimed they transferred the deed, but couldn't provide Duram with any paperwork.

With no proof of the plots being sold or transferred, Duram hired an attorney. "What we want is to anty up the cost of what a cemetery plot costs today and pay that, and we would gladly walk away."

13 On Your Side contacted the cemetery's corporate office but never got a call back. Duram isn't the only Muskegon resident with issues. WZZM covered two other complaints at Sunrise Memorial Gardens.

In 2012 Natalie Jackson contacted us about a grave marking she paid for and didn't receive. "I'd like the date put on the plaque and I want it done yesterday," she told WZZM 13.

Jamie Brewer also contacted us about problems she had with a $900 gravestone. "To find out it was never ordered and they had no intention of putting it down breaks my heart."

13 On Your Side brought Duram's complaints and ongoing issues to the cemetery manager but got no response. "You have to call our corporate office," we were told.

Once again, we called the corporate phone number and left a voice mail. It still hasn't been returned.

In the meantime, Duram says he just wants one thing, "We're not asking for thousands and thousands of dollars in damages. We just want the right thing done by Sunrise Memorial Gardens."

After our interview with Duram, another Muskegon woman contacted 13 On Your Side with the same issue, saying the plot she bought also had someone buried in it. The cemetery offered her a plot on the other side of her husband's.

As of February 5, Sunrise Memorial Gardens' corporate leaders have not contacted WZZM 13 or Duram.

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