7 On Your Side: Resolving cemetery issue
Cecelia Miller is struggling with grief. And she’s struggling to honor her mother Gloria's final wish of being buried with her son Frank, who passed away in 2003.
Cecelia says she was with her mother when she purchased a plot where she and Frank could be buried together.
Mount Olivet Cemetery then sent the family three different certificates of internment for the plot all noting it has two interment spaces.
But Mount Olivet says the multiple certificates were a clerical error and the family bought a single depth burial.
So Frank's body would have to be dug up and reburied deeper in the ground for his mother to join him in their final resting place.
Cecelia says she was told that would cost.
“$5,113.30,” she says. “And that's a conservative estimate.”
That's when Cecelia called 7 On Your Side, asking if we could be her advocate. So 7 On Your Side called the cemetery.
They now say they were already working on a solution. It took a few days. We can now say Cecilia's mother will get her dying wish.
In fact, as the bill shows, the cemetery waived the entire cost of the burial.
“I’m very grateful that you took an interest in the story, and I know my mom is looking down and she's thankful and happy too,” Cecelia says.
It’s worth noting that from the moment we called upper level managers at the cemetery, they expressed a clear desire to resolve this situation.
A full statement from the cemetery is below.
Summary: The director of operations at Catholic Cemeteries initially spoke to the family on Tuesday afternoon. He offered to go to Mount Olivet early the next morning personally to look into what happened, which he did. He also asked that the family contact him at 8 or 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning (whatever worked with their schedule) so he could work this through with them. They did not call.
Instead, Mike tried to contact them several times over Wednesday and Thursday; they responded to his calls on Friday. During this time, Seven on Your Side also contacted the Cemeteries office. It’s difficult to lose a loved one so it’s understandable it can take time to hear back from a family, but the effort to resolve this already was in motion prior to the contact from WJLA.
Tuesday, Dec. 27
After speaking with a staff member at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Mrs. Miller called the Catholic Cemeteries main office and left a message. Mr. Miller called shortly afterward, and spoke with Michael Mazzuca, the director of operations for the cemeteries. The family had been told by the staff member the plot purchased for a relative a number of years ago was for a single depth burial, which did not coincide with their memory of the purchase and intent at the time of the purchase.
Mr. Mazzuca said he would go to Mount Olivet himself at 7 a.m. the next morning to look into what happened, and asked that the Millers contact him after 8 or 9 a.m. so he could assist them further.
Wednesday, Dec. 28
At Mount Olivet, Mr. Mazzuca found a signed authorization for a single depth burial. He also recognized there was confusion because the family had been given multiple copies of a certificate that shows the location of the grave, an apparent clerical error.
The family did not contact Mr. Mazzuca, as discussed on Tuesday. Instead, he began calling Mrs. Miller’s cell at approximately 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and left messages. Also during the late morning, Seven on Your Side called.
Thursday, Dec. 29
Mr. Mazzuca left another message at approximately 9:40 a.m. Using phone numbers supplied by Kris Van Cleave, he called the family home at approximately 10:20 a.m., the cell at 10:25 a.m. (Kris said he had just left their house) and then Mr. Miller’s cell at 10:30 a.m. Mr. Miller indicated he would follow up with Mrs. Miller.
Friday, Dec. 30
Mrs. Miller got back to Mr. Mazzuca. While the signed authorization was for only single depth burial, given the confusion over the certificates, Mr. Mazzuca apologized and told her the cemetery would take care of the disinterment and reinterment.
Statement from Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington
We are committed to providing families in need with the best care possible. We understand that the loss of a loved one is a difficult and painful time. If a family has a question, we look into it right away, research what happened and do our best to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. By the time Seven on Your Side called, the director of operations for Catholic Cemeteries had spoken to the family, gone to the cemetery and researched the situation to resolve their concerns. That process continued and the situation was resolved the same week. We care deeply about our ministry and the families we serve, and will continue to do our best to serve them well.