Who said, “Cemetery management is easy”?





For the most part, cemeteries are tranquil places where lot ownership, interments, and maintenance usually go off as planned and when they do people just don’t seem to notice all the good work and planning that has been done to accomplish that.  But, as this recent print and video news story tell’s us, when something goes off the rails. . . . it becomes a big problem.


In the early 1980’s Hollywood created a block-buster movie with a gopher (and non-conventional real estate developer) teaming up to upset the usually docile and boring crowd at a posh country club with the movie Caddyshack.  (By the way, I’m a big fan and have probably seen that movie at least 50 times.)  Today, the same thing is taking place in Taos, New Mexico, except the gopher has been replaced by a group of prairie dogs and the fictional golf course from the movie, Bushwood County Club,  has been replaced by the real life Sierra Vista Cemetery.


According to this printed news story and accompanying news video from KOAT Action News, “Prairie dogs are currently digging holes in graves at Sierra Vista Cemetery in Taos, New Mexico.  (And) a tip was sent in from a viewer claiming there were possible human remains lying near the graves.”


Again, according to the news story, the cemetery is aware of the issue but Tom Mascarenas, the cemetery grounds keeper said the grounds are difficult to maintain.  He’s quoted in explaining that it is difficult to get rid of the rodents and somewhat complicated, “You have to go through the state, to get an Applicators license for prairie dog pest control. Not only that, but the fumigant pellets that they give you are very poisonous. You have to wear a respirator. You also have to wear gloves and wear protective equipment.. . . . We just try to do as much as we can on our side. And obviously it’s not enough.”


Funeral Director Daily take:  Cemeteries seem so simple. . . .yet all kinds of problems can pop up.  Problems that you never dreamed of.  I served on a non-profit cemetery board for a few years and, for the most part, things ran smoothly and the cemetery served the community day in and day out without hardly anybody noticing.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

But, make a mistake and it seems like the entire community will talk about it.  We eventually found out that we sold the same lot to two different individuals.  And, both had relatives near and wanted the lot.  What was a lot (no pun intended) of good will disappeared overnight, as neither party budged, and we had to get a legal ruling on the issue.  Turns out, at least in Minnesota law, that once we had sold the lot to the first buyer we no longer had the right to sell it to the second buyer because we did not own it.


That seemed like an easy solution until we found out the 2nd buyer was not real happy about that situation.  And, he didn’t feel shy about telling people the non-profit cemetery sold him an “already sold” lot.  We ended up not only giving that person their money back, but giving them a free lot somewhere else in the cemetery.  In addition we offered to do their interments, when necessary, gratis.


It seems like a fairly simple situation now. . . twenty years after the fact.  But in our small community it was no fun to have someone ask you why you are selling someone else’s lot to another party — even if they just thought it was funny predicament and not real serious about the question.


Both gentlemen are deceased and in their respective final resting places now.  Sometimes when I’m in the cemetery and happen to walk by one of their monuments it brings a remembrance and a smile to my face. . . or maybe even a little chuckle just like I have right now as I write this.


Here’s hoping that in the near future the people at Sierra Vista Cemetery will have that same feeling once their problem is resolved.


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