Houston family fights for respect for a loved one's grave

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by Courtney Zubowski / KHOU 11 News I-Team

khou.com

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 12:07 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 5 at 12:20 AM

HOUSTON -- Till death do us part wasn’t long enough for Anita and Melvin Shultz.

The World War II veteran and his wife were inseparable in life and wanted nothing different in death.

Their daughter Carolyn Hill says that’s why “they bought these plots back in the 50’s”.

They bought two burial plots, side by side, at a local cemetery. But now Melvin is gone and the 89-year-old widow can’t believe what’s happening to his grave at Forest Park Lawndale.

“I think he deserves better than this,” Anita Shultz told the KHOU 11 News I-Team. “When I go to the cemetery I want to have a peaceful feeling in which I don’t.”

Because each time Anita and her family visit, they say there’s something wrong, either a run over broken corner post or a sunken footstone or worse.

“He served three years for this country and that’s the respect he gets,” said Anita.

But she and her family say that what bothers them most of all is something else.

Anita says there are clear signs that cemetery staff is regularly driving over Melvin’s grave.

“I get very depressed,” she said. “I know when I get buried that they’re going to be doing the same to my grave and I’m not happy with that at all.”

And she’s not happy with cemetery management.

“We have complained, my son-in-law has complained, I’ve complained, she’s complained and it doesn’t do any good,” said Shultz.

And so they called the 11 News I-Team and at the cemetery we spotted the problem at Melvin’s grave and at other graves, too.

We saw plots being driven over, over and over again as if they were thoroughfares.

So what’s going on here?

“There are really no regulations,” said Lamar Hankins, a longtime member of the Funeral Consumer Alliance. “It comes as a real surprise because there are no regulatory authorities that will deal with that sort of complaint.”

KHOU 11 News: “Should there be?”

Hankins: “I think there should be.”

So Hankins says for now there’s really no protection for Texas consumers.

At first, the management at Forest Park Lawndale wouldn’t go on camera to discuss the problems we’d been shown, but within minutes of our conversation we saw work crew lifting headstone, replanting grass and planting flags around the graves.

So problem solved, right?

Wrong.

Because a few days later we returned and did a check up and once again found problems around Melvin Shultz’s grave. There was mud and grass smeared all over it and it was covered by a tire track.

“We did fix it,” said Forest Park Lawndale General Manager Vic Holland.

KHOU 11 News: “You fixed it, but it’s less than a week later and it’s even worse.”

“We want to say that we are sorry this has happened and assure them that going forward it’s going to be perfect I’ll make sure of that and we’ll do whatever we can to make them happy,” said Holland.

So we made a pledge.

KHOU 11 News: “We’re going to come back here again, I can promise you that, and when we come back will we see more track marks?

I think you’re going to be satisfied,” Management Team Member Kevin J. Krizak told the I-Team.

A few days after that meeting the I-Team again went back to the cemetery and Melvin’s grave looked great.

Also, the general manager called Melvin’s family and told them he is going to keep an eye on that area and the cemetery has mapped out routes for workers to use when driving within the cemetery.

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