It took nearly a year, but the family of June Morrell says they finally have closure. Morrell, who died in November 2014, now has a grave marker at her grave. Her family bought it days after her death, but a financial dispute between East Tennessee Cemetery’s former manager and new owners delayed its installation.
“This is something I know she would have wanted just as soon as she was buried,” her grandson Jed Conerly said. “I know this would mean a lot to her. Even though it took 11 months I know she’d be thrilled.”
After we and the state got involved, East Tennessee Cemetery eventually agreed to take responsibility for the cemetery’s previous mismanagement and unfulfilled contracts, which were sold by the former owner. The new owners bought the cemetery at a foreclosure sale.
“Things happen for a reason and that’s okay,” East Tennessee Cemetery General Manager David Hale said. “It was a little speed bump that we had to overcome. We did take on the responsibility of the cemetery, which included some debt and in turn we have fulfilled and are fulfilling the promises.”
Back in June, the cemetery gave refunds to some customers after they had to pay twice for their loved ones’ burials. At the time, Hale said he expected grave markers to be installed in September. According to Hale, the previous owner failed to fulfill contracts for 160 grave markers, vases, scrolls, plaques and dates of death. He says the cemetery has already installed roughly 40 of those and hopes the rest will be in place by the end of the year.
“If we give you our word then we will fulfill it,” Hale said.
Morrell’s case is proof. Back in March Conerly had his doubts this day would come, but for the last several months he says the cemetery has remained committed.
“This is something I know she would have wanted just as soon as she was buried,” Conerly said. “I know this would mean a lot to her. Having this here we finally have closure.”
He is hopeful other families will soon be able to say the same.
“Just knowing what we went through and how hard it was to deal with it just makes me feel good to know that it’s going to happen for them too,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance says the agency does not have any unresolved or outstanding complaints against East Tennessee Cemetery, which means the cemetery remains in good standing and can continue to sell new contracts.
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