The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Widow settles with cemetery over twice-sold plot
BY JEFF BRANSCOME
A widow has settled the complaint she filed against Sunset Memorial Gardens after learning that it had sold her late husband’s burial plot to someone else.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the state agency that oversees cemeteries said she expects an investigation into the matter to be closed soon with no discipline of the company that now owns Sunset.
Frank Milles, vice president of administration for StoneMor Partners LP—which owns Sunset Memorial Gardens off U.S. 1 in Spotsylvania County—said Frances Collier’s contract with the cemetery has been canceled and her money refunded.
“The issue with Mrs. Collier has been resolved to her satisfaction,” he said. “We consider the matter now closed.” He wouldn’t say how much money Collier received.
Collier, who lives in Caroline County, said the issue has been resolved but declined to comment further.
She filed a complaint with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation in January after her husband, Charles Collier, couldn’t be buried as planned because his plot at Sunset had been sold to another person before the Colliers purchased it.
Frances Collier learned about the mistake shortly before her husband’s wake.
Charles Collier, who died Jan. 19 at age 60 from Lou Gehrig’s disease, was the lead singer of a popular local country band, the Midnight Cowboys. He was buried at Bethany Baptist Church in Spotsylvania almost a month after he died.
Mary Broz–Vaughan, a spokeswoman with the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, said that record-keeping errors—including those involving the Colliers—occurred at Sunset before StoneMor purchased the cemetery.
“It does appear StoneMor has taken on the challenge not of their making and is working to rectify that,” she said.
Broz–Vaughan said StoneMor has been “very cooperative” and won’t be subject to disciplinary action from the state agency. The investigation will close soon, she said.
“Our goal is always to try to obtain compliance rather than just discipline someone,” she said.
Milles of StoneMor said there’s nothing for the community to worry about regarding past record-keeping issues at Sunset.
“We do not have a bunch of errors hanging out there,” he said.
StoneMor took control of Sunset and two other local cemeteries—Laurel Hill Memorial Park in Spotsylvania and Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg—when it bought out the former owner, the Lowen Group, in 1999.
The double-selling of Charles Collier’s plot occurred well before then.
After Frances Collier’s father died in 1988, the family purchased six plots at Sunset for her and her husband, her two brothers and her parents.
Her brother purchased another two plots in 1995. It’s unclear if any of the family’s plots other than Charles Collier’s site were double-sold.
The cemetery verified the error after the first buyer of the plot saw that the grave site had been dug up, Frances Collier said in an interview earlier this year.
StoneMor offered her a refund for her and her husband’s plots earlier this year, but Collier objected to a nondisclosure clause in the settlement proposal. Spotsylvania attorney Ed Younger, who represented Collier for free, said at the time that he had asked the company to pay her $25,000 if it wanted a nondisclosure agreement.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402