2018-03-08 / News

Family wants township to close grave

By Gary Gould
810-452-2650 • ggould@mihomepaper.com

RICHFIELD TWP. — When Debethy Wilson died Dec. 31, she was laid to rest in the cemetery she managed for years prior to the township taking it over.

Now, her family is looking for answers as to why her grave remains open, still in need of more dirt to fill the hole and properly close her final resting place.

Her son, Joe Paivarinta of Burton, said his mother used to manage the Cottage Cemetery on Mt. Morris Road and she was buried there Jan. 5 following her death.

When the grave was filled with dirt Paivarinta, former sextant for the cemetery, said it was not properly done – in his opinion.

“We used to mound the dirt when we buried someone there,” he said, citing at least 30 burials he and his brother handled at Cottage Cemetery prior to Richfield Township taking it over. “Then it settles and you go back weekly to check on it and fill it in. It’s been two months and nothing is getting done.”

Deputy Supervisor Keith Pyles said the township is aware of the issue with Wilson’s gravesite, but he said between snow and rain, the current sextant of the cemetery hasn’t been able to finish the job.

“We still have to have the closing,” said Pyles. “Our sextant hasn’t been closed it yet. There was 13 inches of snow on ground in January. Then there was water. As soon as the ground is feasible it will be filled. (Our sextant) can only do what he can do at this time.”

Paivarinta said he and his brother were allowed by the township to open the grave themselves prior to their mother’s burial. They were still charged the standard $500 fee for opening the grave, he said.

Several members of his family are buried there, he said, so his family has always cared for the cemetery in some way.

“We dug it with a pick axe and shovel,” said Paivarinta, an Iraq war veteran, describing the night he and his brother opened his mother’s gravesite. “We were there in 15 degree weather, 12-1 in the morning. It was the last thing we felt we could do for our mother.”

But the township has refused to allow them go back and fill in the shallow dirt. He said he would be willing to do it if allowed, and could do it with a shovel, rake and, if necessary, a wheelbarrow of dirt.

Pyles said the township’s sextant does all maintenance there, and relies on money from the general fund for upkeep at the cemetery. Cottage Cemetery came to be in the township’s care several years ago when perpetual care of the site fell by the wayside. There are graves there dating back to about 1850, including those of area Civil War soldiers.

The township, he said, makes no money off the one or two new graves added there yearly. The fee for the grave opening mostly goes to pay the contractors who open graves and maintain the cemetery.

“I don’t want to see it left there that way,” said Pyles. “It will be properly filled as soon as it’s feasible.”

Paivarinta said he just wants the grave properly closed, immediately, and he remains critical of the township’s care for the cemetery.

“You never leave dirt piled next to a grave,” he said. “It’s uncalled for.”

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