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Cemetery makes grave mistake

September 12, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

When Beverly Reeder went to visit her husband's grave Sunday, she was shocked to discover that it wasn't in the same place it had been for 14 years.

It turns out that Lee G. Reeder was buried in the wrong plot in February 1984, said Geoffrey and Rick Freeman, president and vice president of Cedar Lawn Memorial Park.

The cemetery superintendent thought he would spare the family's feelings by not telling them about the mistake and putting Reeder in his rightful resting place, about 10 feet away, the Freemans said.

But the Reeder family is stunned that they weren't told.

"You just don't believe something like that could happen," said Beverly Reeder, 59, of 829 W. Washington St., Hagerstown. "When I put him there to rest, I intended to have him rest there."

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Beverly Reeder last visited her husband's grave in May, on what would have been his 63rd birthday if he hadn't died of cancer.

Their son, Jeffrey Lee Reeder, brought roses to the grave in June, around Father's Day.

But last Saturday, Beverly Reeder's 17-year-old granddaughter, Jessica Heaps, drove by and noticed that the grave had been moved.

At first, Beverly Reeder didn't believe the story. Then she and her daughter, Sarah Heaps, went to see for themselves.

Cemetery officials apologized for the mistake and said, with the benefit of hindsight, they would have handled it differently.

"I'm so sorry the family's upset. We felt we were doing the right thing. We weren't trying to be sneaky or anything," Geoffrey Reeder said.

If only the cemetery would have called her, they might have been able to work out a solution to the problem that would have allowed her husband's grave to stay in the same place, Beverly Reeder said.

"When they dig someone up you love, it does matter," said daughter Sarah Heaps, 39.

Now, Beverly Reeder wants her husband's grave moved back. She has talked to a lawyer, who is looking into the case.

"It smells to me like somebody's looking for a lawsuit," Geoffrey Freeman said.

Freeman said the cemetery superintendent, who has worked there more than 30 years, was within his rights to move the grave without a permit. When people buy burial plots they don't purchase the land, he said.

The superintendent thought the family wouldn't realize the grave had been moved, Rick Freeman said.

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