Cemetery telling funeral homes it is 'too cold' to open graves

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SOUTH POINT, Ohio (WSAZ) — Losing a loved is difficult for families, and some are saying a cemetery in South Point, Ohio is not making the grieving process any easier.

Funeral homes in the area and families tell WHSV's sister station, WSAZ ,they are having issues with scheduling burials at Highland Memorial Gardens in South Point. They are claiming the cemetery is telling them that the ground is "too cold" to open the plots for burial services.

Gary Clarke says his family went through the ordeal at the end of January when his mother-in-law passed.

She was supposed to be buried on Jan. 31, but wasn't until Feb. 13.

"We expect to have a funeral service that will be a memorial to her, and then we will lay her to rest. That process did not happen," Clarke said.

The funeral home the family used, Slack and Wallace, tells WSAZ this is not an uncommon issue to have with Highland Memorial, but they are the only cemetery to give them a problem like that.

"If the weather were 20 degrees below zero, we could understand that," said Rick Slack. "Families would understand that even, but with the weather we've been having this winter, it's not been that cold."

Slack says already this year, they have had four burial issues with the cemetery because of the "too cold" excuse. Slack says it's been a problem for the funeral home for more than 10 years.

"Other cemeteries seem to be able to deal with these problems," Slack said.

WSAZ went to the cemetery to give officials the opportunity to talk. The owner, Larry Carter, declined to go on camera but did not deny this is something they do. He stands by the claim that the ground has been frozen and not easy to dig. He says for the recent case of the delayed burial, their backhoe was broken, and no family has ever complained to them.

"I would emphasize disrespectful," Clarke said. "Heartless. No sense of caring for people."

Another family told WSAZ they were put through the same ordeal. They claim they were not told they couldn't do a graveside service and burial until just hours before the funeral. They are now exploring legal options.

"We waited two weeks for this, and that's hard in of itself, so there was no real closure at the funeral service," Clarke said of their experience.

Clarke said when they were able to bury his mother-in-law, the set-up was not a traditional burial at all, which he says was not easy either.

"I'm not mad at Mr. Carter," said Clarke. "I am upset about the fact though that he heartlessly made my wife wait for two weeks for no reason at all."

Slack adds that while inconvenient to the funeral home, they are able to properly maintain the bodies as they wait for the cemetery to give them approval to bring a body for burial.