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Nearly eight years later, doctor still awaits burial

Grahame Henson’s mausoleum sits atop a small rise that is arguably the most attractive spot in Hillcrest Memory Gardens.

With views of a quiet forest to the west and pastoral farmland to the east, this would seem the ideal final resting spot for an English-born doctor who loved his adopted home and its rustic beauty.

The only problem is that Grahame Henson, who was one of Culpeper’s most prominent surgeons for almost three decades, isn’t in his mausoleum.

For almost eight years now, Henson’s body has been “warehoused in a temporary unsealed, unmarked crypt” in a larger mausoleum just down the hill.

“Warehoused.” That designation may seem insensitive, but that’s the word used by Henson’s widow, June, in a suit filed against Hillcrest Memory Gardens and its parent company, PVD Acquisitions LLC, in February 2006.

And, according to the court documents, that warehousing has caused “great anguish” for June Henson, “who has not yet buried her beloved husband.”

If all goes as scheduled—and this suit has traveled a rocky road in its seven-year history, it may take the action of 12 jurors, not six pallbearers, to get the good doctor’s remains moved to a final resting spot.

The basis for the court suit, which is scheduled to come to trial on April 29, is that the mausoleum’s foundation, which Henson claims was nine years old at the time the mausoleum was delivered, “appeared to be crumbling” and that the “mausoleum is not resting on any solid surface.”

The suit claims that June Henson, who will one day share the crypt with her husband, complained repeatedly about the foundation’s condition, but that Hillcrest’s “[only] apparent work included white silicon caulking mixed with dirt.”

So, in February 2006, Henson stopped making payments on the $32,947 mausoleum and, citing breach of contract, took the matter to court, where it has been floundering ever since.

In a written response to Henson’s suit, Hillcrest and PVD Acquisitions, acting through Corporate Services Co. of Richmond, denied the silicon charge and all other allegations. The cemetery group has filed a counter-claim citing breach of contract by June Henson, who they say still owes $11,231.56.

The defendants are also asking the court to order Henson to pay all associated legal bills and court costs.

Henson, meanwhile, is asking a jury to award her “actual and compensatory damages” and allow her to hire outside engineers and contractors to create, “in a workmanlike manner and within a reasonable period of time,” a more substantial foundation for her husband’s mausoleum.

Court documents include letters by Henson saying she would make no further payments “for something she was not getting” and a subsequent letter stating that the plaintiff was “ready to pay in full—if [the mausoleum] was placed correctly.”

Meanwhile, Grahame Henson’s remains are being “warehoused” and waiting for a jury to determine what happens next.

Neither June Henson nor Richmond attorney Belinda Jones, who represents Hillcrest and Corporate Services Co., would comment on the impending civil suit.

Donnie Johnston:

djohnston@freelancestar.com

ABOUT DR. HENSON

Grahame F. Henson was born in England, became a doctor at age 22 and was inducted into the World College of Surgeons at 26.

Henson came to Culpeper in 1960, soon after Culpeper Memorial Hospital opened. For 29 years, until his retirement in 1989, he partnered with Dr. George Broman in a surgical practice.

Henson was active in the arts and assumed a number of roles in “The Pink Ladies’ Follies,” which were musical and comedy benefit shows for the hospital.

Henson had three children by his first marriage: Jeffrey, now a retired engineer; Rosalind, a Boston judge; and Christine, who works in television in South Carolina.

He died on July 17, 2005, at the age of 84. His widow and second wife, June, still lives in Culpeper.

 

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