Woman fights to protect late husband’s grave

Published 9:30 am Thursday, March 16, 2023

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A LaGrange woman is fighting to get protection for her late husband’s grave after having to go through the anguish of having additional remains buried above his casket.

Wanda Barrett buried her late husband, Carlos, at Southview Cemetery in LaGrange in November 2021. Eight months later she discovered another person’s urn buried above her husband.

Barrett discovered the urn after noticing her husband’s grave had been disturbed while visiting his gravesite. The cemetery later told her that West Georgia Mortuary had buried an urn above her husband’s casket.

“It was just devastating. I never would have thought in a million years that an urn had been buried in his grave,” Barrett said. “I already had anxiety because of my husband’s death. it just took my breath away. Just couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t believe it.”

West Georgia Mortuary owner Jaunita Harrell confirmed that they had buried the urn at the foot of Carlos’ grave. The urn had not been intentionally buried in the occupied gravesite and they relocated it, she said.

The urn has been moved but Barrett said it still bothers her that her husband’s final resting place is not protected. She has asked to put a slab over the grave to prevent the grave from being further disturbed but was told that wouldn’t be possible because it violates a city rule.

“I’m not going to be able to rest well at night until I can sleep knowing that his grave won’t be disturbed. For me, that’s having a slab on top of it so that nobody can bury anything else in his grave,” Barrett said Tuesday night at the LaGrange City Council meeting.

Barrett said that her husband’s headstone was up before the urn was buried so she doesn’t know how the urn could have been buried there. She said every time she visits the cemetery she is reminded of how her husband’s grave was violated.

“They put a patch of grass there. It looks like a dead piece of grass just sitting there, so it’s a sore reminder every time we go there and look at it,” she said.

Barrett said she is willing to pay for the slab but was told it wasn’t possible by is not possible by Southview Cemetery. She said she approached the city about the issue in August 2022 but hasn’t had any feedback even after multiple calls.

“I feel like it’s the city’s fault. They failed to protect my husband’s grave. They allowed another funeral home to bury an urn inside of his grave,” Barrett said. “That’s something that never should have happened.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Mitchell explained that the city does not allow concrete slabs at the cemetery because it increases maintenance costs. City workers already have to weed-eat around headstones. Adding slabs to cut around would only further increase maintenance costs, he said.

Councilman Leon Childs questioned how long the rule forbidding slabs had been in place. City Manager Meg Kesley was unable to provide an exact date but said it had been enacted a long time ago.

Childs suggested taking another look at the ordinance and speaking with maintenance and cemetery staff to see if Barrett could be accommodated.

“It’s a delicate situation. You you’re dealing with your loved one in their final resting spot. AI would just say to the council and Meg is there any kind of way we can look at that ordinance,” Childs said.

The council later agreed to further discuss the issue with Barrett at their work session on March 28.