KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville family is disappointed with a local cemetery after a temporary marker was removed. Cemetery operators say the marker’s removal was in keeping with their policy if a family chooses to buy a monument from another company.

Bud Branam’s daughter and wife are heartbroken. For nearly a year, a temporary marker had been at the grave sit but it was removed two weeks ago. Now at the head of his grave is straw.

“As of right now, once the grass covers this there will be no resemblance that my father lays there,” Susan Smith said. “It hurts, I just want identification that this isn’t dirt, that this is my daddy.”

Branam died on July 10, 2020. He and his wife Janie had been married for 56 years. He had been a teacher and principal in Knox County Schools as well as an active community leader. “It hurts,” Janie Branam talking about seeing the straw at her husband’s grave. “I cannot see the outline of Bud’s grave.”

Branam is buried at Knoxville’s historic Greenwood Cemetery. Susan said when she visited the cemetery on June 23, her father’s temporary marker was gone. She says, “I’m going through cancer right now and I was going to have a test done, I needed to spend some time with my dad. So, I drove in and I couldn’t see where my dad was and it was removed.”

Branam shared the deed to the family’s cemetery plots with us; she bought four spaces last July and paid Greenwood $24,000. She said, for six months they had talked with the management at Greenwood about gravestone they planned to purchase from the cemetery. The family hoped to have them install it by the first anniversary of Bud’s death, July 10.

Smith says, “We had been to Greenwood multiple times, many phone calls asking for a monument to be done for my father.” Branam adds, “It never was finished, the job wasn’t finished when we came back to present us the full amount.”

Daughter Susan said that since they weren’t able to get the monument, they wanted to proceed to go to Brimer’s. The design is what Brimer Monument Company prepared for the family, they said it could be delivered this summer. Branam said she paid a $1,500 fee in February that went to Greenwood because the family had chosen another monument company and not Greenwood.

Then, two weeks ago the temporary marker disappeared. Branam went to the management office to ask why. “I was told that we weren’t buying the stone from them, that we had gone somewhere else.”

WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to Greenwood Cemetery. Kim Bridges said, “We would never harm anyone, that’s not what we do. This is a very good family there is nothing malicious here at all, it’s just policy. We received notification that the family decided to go to another vendor. And according to our policy, we took the temporary marker up because they weren’t going to buy the monument from us.”

She adds, “If a family chooses to buy a stone from another monument company, which is their right, we take that marker up because we have other families in the queue that may need their temporary marker.” Bridges explained that they are in short supply due to COVID-19. Presently, there is no plan to replace the temporary marker, which is a disappointment to the family.

Smith says, “I want identification that my father was not erased.”

There are 25,000 people buried at Greenwood. Bridges, the owner of the cemetery, says that the responsibility of every one of those families falls on us and we take that very seriously.

WATE 6 On Your Side checked with other cemeteries in the Knoxville area, Greenwood is the only one we could find that charges a fee if you don’t buy a monument from them. In our research, we found that many cemeteries do charge what’s called a setting and perpetual care fee. That may run from $150 – $200.