OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — The widow of a Korean War veteran was distressed to learn there had been a misunderstanding with one of the pre-need funeral arrangements they had taken out.
When her husband passed away last month, a fee was charged that she believed had been paid nearly 40 years ago. The cemetery has now refunded the fee and explained what happened.
Planning a funeral is difficult, on top of the emotional toll of saying goodbye to a loved one, there are logistical details and expenses that have to be managed. To eliminate the burden of planning your funeral off loved ones’ shoulders, funeral homes and cemeteries have offered pre-paid plans for years now. You make all of the arrangements and pay for them using either life insurance or paying upfront.
Cecil Farmer and his wife paid in advance, but one detail made 39 years ago was likely forgotten. It was 1970 when he bought four spaces at Oak Ridge Memorial Park Cemetery and in 1984 he prepaid more services.
“Cecil was a wonderful person. He worked at Fort Sanders hospital for 52 years. He went home to be with the Lord, I miss him very much,” Rosemary Farmer said.
Rosemary figured with Cecil’s funeral arrangements pre-paid, she’d have no added expenses on her tight budget. But there was a last-minute surprise. Beginning in 1984, Cecil paid $24 a month to Oak Ridge Memorial Gardens for 2 crypts and what Rosemary believed was the opening and closing of the graves.
“And we made payments on it. It was $1,213.44. This is where it is paid in full, in ’88, 1988,” Rosemary said.
However, when she got to the cemetery after Cecil died last month, a question came up about the 1984 agreement.
“I asked them, now opening and closing, it’s free. She said, ‘No they’re not.’ I said, ‘Well we have a paper here saying that the crypt and the opening and closing are free.’ She said, ‘No, no they’re not,'” Rosemary said.
Rosemary then produced this letter written by the cemetery in 1984, it states, “We acknowledge receipt for two crypts and for two pre-paid openings and closings.”
“They said it was a typo, an error, it was an error, but that wasn’t true,” Rosemary said.
An agreement sent to WATE by the cemetery shows $895 bought two crypts in 1984 but not the opening and closing, it is left blank. A second agreement, which unfortunately Mrs. Farmer apparently didn’t know about, shows Cecil only pre-paid for the crypts. So, Rosemary wrote a check last month for more than a thousand dollars to have the grave opened and closed.
“That’s a considerable amount that I didn’t have. They caught me between a rock and hard place, I had to do it,” Rosemary said.
In addition to the documents sent to WATE, the cemetery’s director said “in the interest of goodwill and bringing Mrs. Farmer peace of mind” it was “refunding her payment” and the cemetery writes it “would provide her opening and closing at no cost” when that time came thus “rectifying a decades-old typo and misunderstanding.”
“I think it’s wonderful. If they are going to do that, it’s a load off my mind, a load off my shoulders,” Rosemary said.
Based on Rosemary’s experience, if you have a pre-arranged funeral and paid for it years ago, experts say, it’s best to dust off the documents and check them over.
“So you always want to make sure that opening and closing is paid with the cemetery and you have documentation showing that. With the funeral home, you should check out your services: casket, vault, memorial packages, that kind of thing,” said Christina Shockley with Mynatt Funeral Home.
Many former privately owned cemeteries and funeral homes are run by a corporation, and pre-paid plans can sometimes change when that happens. So, to avoid possible issues, it’s really important to go over pre-paid arrangements made years ago.
Oak Ridge Memorial Park is a registered non-profit perpetual care cemetery spanning over 60 years.