To the Editor:
My name is Danielle Duke, and I was a lifelong resident of Letcher County before I moved to Georgetown in July of 2011.
Today I am writing in regards to an upkeep and maintenance issue I am experiencing at Green Acres Cemetery, across from Walmart in Whitesburg. Both of my grandfathers have been buried there for years, so I frequent their gravesites often when I am home. I have noticed over the last several years that the care of the cemetery seemed to be going downhill gradually. In August of 2017, I lost my son in a car accident in Letcher County, and I laid him to rest in the mausoleum located at the top of the cemetery in a crypt that had been purchased years ago by my father.
Since his passing, I frequent the cemetery extremely often, and due to the conditions worsening, I am now outraged over the care of the whole grounds. On August 22 of this year, the anniversary of the day of my child’s passing, I was at his gravesite by 7:15 a.m. … and began taking pictures on my phone of all the unnecessary neglect over the whole grounds. I will list some of the things I captured on photo.
The mausoleum is cracked in multiple places, with large holes in certain areas. The paint was chipping on all sides of the building. On one side of the building was mold and mildew. Also, on the inside of the mausoleum, there were cobwebs, and it was very unclean.
The flagpole on the top of the hill is leaning, and has been for many months, with no flag. The weeds on the hillside came all the way up to my chest. There was garbage in the flowerbeds. The bins for dumping old flowers were full and covering the ground, along with a lot of garbage.
Graves have sunk in. Tombstones are leaning. The road coming off of the top of the hill on the side closest to the old Ermine Senior Citizens building was so bad with holes and broken pavement that I could not even bring my car off that side of the hill without dragging. I was in tears that an individual or business could allow this to happen at a place that many people hold near and dear to their hearts.
As a mother I laid my child to rest there with expectations of being able to visit my son without (facing these issues). The next morning I made a public Facebook post, along with all the pictures I had taken, and I have had many people reach out to me. We all feel the same way. We want respect for our loved ones — people we loved with all of our hearts and who are no longer here to defend themselves.
After my post I am communicating with a lot of other people, and a lot of them have filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. It is my understanding that when someone buys a grave plot or a mausoleum crypt, that upkeep is included in that price because it is a perpetual care cemetery. That means we do not have to cut grass or weeds or maintain the grounds.
We can clean our own headstones and replace flowers, and I even sweep in front of my child’s crypt, but we are not responsible for any other duties. And since this is not being done, except for maybe once a year, where is our money going? We all paid a high price to lay our loved ones to rest there.
I waited on a nameplate for my son for over three months, calling often to ask if it was in. I never did receive one. I had to ask for my money back and I went to another local business and I had a nameplate plus a bronze emblem for the same price within five weeks. I have other people tell me that they waited months, sometimes up to a year for a nameplate. Some people don’t have a date of death listed. Many, many people tell me they have voiced their complaints to Everidge Funeral Home and have been promised by them that their issues would be addressed, but never have.
The day after my post on Facebook, I went back to the cemetery and they were painting and cutting some weeds and patching holes in the road and picking up garbage. Well I am sorry, but paint doesn’t fix leaks, holes and cracks in the structure of the building, and a little blacktop doesn’t cut it either when the whole road needs to be paved and has needed it for years.
This is not a “one time and done” issue. I am a grieving mother and my baby is in that building now, and I will not stop until this issue is resolved. I won’t just forget about it. I have many people backing me in this situation and if anyone in the community is willing to support me, I would gladly appreciate it.
This is not about revenge or attention or to bring a business down. This is about respect and honesty and loyalty to people who put trust in a business to care for their loved one’s final resting place.