WACO, Texas – Jimmy Imeri was shocked and furious after his father told him his mother’s grave in Waco’s Oakwood Cemetery had been stripped of the flowers and benches the family left there.
Mary Imeri, who owned Baris restaurant for over 20 years, died in January after a battle with cancer. Since then, the Imeri family has gone to visit her grave almost every day.
While waiting for her headstone, the family added flowers over the dirt on her grave site and benches on the side so her elderly widower could sit. One day, they noticed they were all gone – starting with the benches.
“My dad came back the very next day after they pulled the benches, and then all the flowers were pulled out. And that put him in tears,” Jimmy said. “He comes here every day, and he plants a flower every time he comes, and that’s a big disrespect. Touching a dead person’s grave. And it really bothered my father. It really hit him emotionally.”
The cemetery says these benches and flowers broke their rules.
“Fresh-cut flowers are always welcome. We ask that people not plant anything out here, because we have to maintain the property,” Oakwood Cemetery general manager Clint Lynch said. “When somebody buys cemetery property, they also purchase the maintenance. That means we’re going to come in and we’re going to mow, and weed-eat, and water.”
Imeri claims that not only was his family not given a set of rules when he bought the plots, but also that they were not warned before everything was removed from his mother’s grave.
“They have our number. They call us every month when the bill is due for the rest of the graves,” Imeri said. “They could’ve said, ‘Hey, next month I need you to know you didn’t pull these permits and we need to get this taken care of.’ But instead, they just come and mess up all over my mother’s grave.”
The cemetery’s rules state a plot consisting of four or more spaces can have a bench. The Imeri family has reserved twelve.
Lynch told the family after removing the benches that the plots must actually be paid off first.
“In order to place a bench, you have to own four consecutive spaces, and they are still paying on their property,” Lynch said. “They only have one space that’s paid for.”
Lynch also said it is common practice to reserve spots in the cemetery, and paying for them over time.
Imeri believes they can put out benches because they have reserved twelve spaces, and the rules say the plot must “consist of” four or more spaces. It does not say someone must have paid off the spaces.
“It doesn’t even say that. It just says the property must consist of four plots to have one bench,” Imeri said. “[Lynch] says, ‘Yeah, that’s what that means.’ But I said, ‘consists of plots.’ And paying for them is two different words.”
Imeri says the family is considering moving their mother’s grave to a different cemetery.