Funeral home responds to criticism about condition of hidden headstones, says “They will fix it”

Arkansas News

CROSSETT, Arkansas (08/01/19) — Recently, the Pinewood Memorial Cemetery has been under fire for what many families say is a lack of maintenance with their cemetery grounds.

Photos (shown below) were taken of several stone markers at the cemetery that were sunk into the ground and covered with debris.

NBC 10 spoke with Samantha Sturgeon last Friday. She took the photos while visiting her grandmother’s grave site and later posted the photos to Facebook in disappointment.

Others began to chyme in on how this has been a recurring issue for quite some time. Families were told the markers were sunk into the ground because of recent heavy rain. Richard Myhand, general manager at the funeral home, strongly agrees that is part of the problem.

“Whenever we have a wet year and the ground gets saturated with water in this area and this particular cemetery, the graves do settle,” Myhand said.

Myhand says the rain affects every area of their outside duties and being near a creek doesn’t help. Cemetery employees aren’t able to mow or lift the markers, like they would hope.

“The ground has got to be dry enough to get in and level the marker and get it where it won’t sink back down,” Myhand said.

The manager doesn’t claim to be a part of a perfect business but that’s why he says he wants to settle any issues a family may have.

“That’s why I’m here is to try and do more and see what all we have to do to make this a better looking cemetery,” he said.

Another issue he attributes, he is the number of workers that are responsible for the upkeep. Currently, the cemetery foreman is designated with keeping up the 1,050 graves that occupy the large acre of land.

The foreman is responsible for mowing the lot, making sure the markers are above ground and just general maintenance of the cemetery. He also is responsible for funeral service duties.

Myhand admits this one man is responsible for more than he can handle but it hasn’t always been that way.

“Normally with the people we had doing it before, he would come and do it every two weeks,” he said.

The routine has changed since that group is no longer splitting the work. Myhand says that’s all going to change soon.

“We’re going to work on hiring someone else and they’ve already come out and started mowing for us,” he said. “That will free him[the cemetery foreman] up to be able to set the markers up and do the extra stuff out here.”

The foreman has been out since we last reported, cleaning up each marker and making sure they’re lifted above the ground.

Myhand hopes the new adjustments will make it better for the employees and families.

“I think we’ll be a whole lot better by making this adjustments,” he said. “I think the families will be a lot happier.”

If there are ever any issues in the future, Myhand says to call him at 479-234-2261.

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Families concerned with hidden headstones at Pinewood Memorial Cemetery

CROSSETT, Arkansas (07/26/19) — Samantha Sturgeon just buried her great grandmother over the weekend. Her beloved lived to see 102 years. She lay now at the Pinewood Memorial Cemetery on Highway 52.

Days after the funeral, Sturgeon decided to visit her great grandmother. The flowers and dirt were still fresh but it was more than just her great grandmother’s grave site that caught her eye.

“I got to looking around and saw where several headstones were completely covered by grass and dirt,” Sturgeon said.

The photos show pictures Sturgeon took of headstones sunk into the ground and covered with dirt and debris. Many of the names and information on the stones can’t even been seen.

She took her concerns to Facebook and learned she wasn’t the only one with a problem.

“I started getting a number of inboxes, people commenting saying that this has been an ongoing issue for them for years and that they have reached out to Jones,” Sturgeon said. “I, in fact, reached out to Jones.”

Jones Funeral Home in Crossett owns the Pinewood Memorial Cemetery. They have been serving the Crossett and surrounding communities since 1927.

Sturgeon said she called to complain about the hidden stones and overall maintenance of the property. A representative told her it was a rain issue.

“She said we had had a very rainy season,” Sturgeon recalled.

Sturgeon agreed there has been a substantial amount of rain but that’s no excuse to how the headstones are being kept. She believes it’s neglect.

“The headstones being completely covered by grass and dirt and the vases being broke off of the headstones, that’s not a rain issue,” she said. “I understand that sometimes you can’t mow because of the rain but these are people’s loved ones and they shouldn’t come out here and not be able to see their headstones.”

Families trust the funeral home to take care of their loved ones no matter how long they’ve been in the grave. Sturgeon strongly believes it’s all about respect.

“Regardless of whether these people who have the covered headstones have been gone 50 years or 5 days the respect should still be the same,” Sturgeon said. “They should still be taken care of.”

The funeral home has one worker that is tasked with the responsibilities of up keeping the cemetery grounds. Sturgeon suggested that they hire more hands.

“I just think that Jones needs to have somebody where their job title is just coming out here and maintaining the cemetery,” she said. “Make it look presentable, like you care.”

Sturgeon doesn’t plan on moving her loved ones, she just wants the funeral home to take action. We reached out to the cemetery manager but he wasn’t available for comment.

This is still a developing story.

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