Plot Problems: Family finally buries mother after mistake - WNCT

Plot Problems: Family finally buries mother after a grave mistake

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Florence Salisbury's family is finally getting some closure Saturday night.  Five days after a mistake left their mom without a place to be buried.

On Monday, the family contacted 9 on your side for help. After our investigation determined it was a measurement mistake, Florence Salisbury was laid to rest next to her mother at the Pine Lawn Cemetery in Bethel.

"It's such relief, knowing that my mother is where she wants to be, with my grandmother," said daughter Evelyn Smith.

Though it's been a difficult week, smith says her mother's legacy of helping others lives on.

Smith says despite all the problems with her mother's funeral, there is a silver lining.

"This is a holy week that she's going back with God on Easter weekend, and that's a big blessing," said Smith.

Salisbury's family headed back to New Jersey to lead their church congregation in an Easter Sunday service, just as their mother would have done.

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A family hoping to honor their mother's final wish got shocking news, they never expected.

They came down from New Jersey to bury their mother, Florence Salisbury, next to their grandmother, Minnie Parker, at a cemetery in Bethel.

"All her life she had said she had wanted to come to be buried by her mother," said Evelyn Smith, Salisbury's daughter.

Grandmother Minnie died in 1982, and was buried at Pine Lawn Cemetery.

That year, Florence Salisbury bought two plots, one for her and one for her mother.

Salisbury passed away this month, but as the family was preparing for the funeral, the town manager told them this:

"That someone else had been put in the grave my mother was supposed to be buried in," recalled Smith.

Somebody was already buried in their plot, but nobody knew who it was.

"They're telling me they don't know who it is, they don't know anything," said Smith.

The family then came to the 9 On Your Side studio and asking for help getting answers – and we got them.

We met the family at the cemetery and saw the plot in question. We then went to straight to town hall. The funeral director, Willie Acklin with Ward Funeral Home, and the family came with us. The town is responsible for selling the plots, keeping records, and issuing burial permits. We asked for records and found the deed that proved Florence Salisbury owned the lot since 1982.

Since the family owns the plot, they asked the town manager to move the unknown body. He told them they couldn't without consent from that person's family, but nobody knew who was buried there.

"At this point they're saying I can purchase another grave and I said no," said Smith.

She told us they town told her to buy two new lots, and then they could move their grandmother and bury their mother next to her.

After we showed up the town offered the family new plots for free, but the family was not happy at the thought of moving their grandmother.

How did this happen in the first place?

Town Manager Todd Bullock says until about 1986, the town had record of who owned the plots, but did not keep track of who was buried.

He wouldn't talk to us on camera but says the town didn't even know grandmother Minnie was buried there until he saw the tombstone.

So we began our investigation to find out who was buried in the family's spot.

We made one more trip to the cemetery, and this story took a whole new twist, with this call from the town manager to Ms. Smith:

"The spot for your mother is vacant. They mismeasured out here," he said.

Turns out, the town made a mistake. The plot in question was actually empty.

They town manager and cemetery workers went out and re-measured the plots after our visit.

"9 On Your Side, that's the only time we got some help was when Channel 9 news, came to the cemetery, went to town hall, then went to the funeral home," said funeral director Willie Acklin.

The family is still upset, saying the delay in burying is costing them more money.

They want the town to foot the bill.

But at least now, they can honor their mother's final wish.

The town manager says they are now working on cataloging who all is buried in the cemetery.

The family says if they can get everything together they'll try to have the funeral on Tuesday.

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