Family says cemetery error put driveway in path of grave
STURGIS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A West Michigan family says it is fighting to prevent having to move their deceased loved one who was buried two years ago.
The controversy revolves around the grave location belonging to Shirley Sisco, who passed away almost two years ago and was buried at Pretty Prairie United Methodist Cemetery in Howe, Indiana.
Members of Sisco’s family say they were recently informed by cemetery board members that Sisco was buried in the wrong location, and that the grave and resting place are currently in the way of a planned driveway.
According to Sisco’s daughter, the cemetery board has proposed to move Sisco’s grave, casket and body.
“Let leave my mother’s body at rest,” said Terry Bower, daughter of Sisco. “Don’t move her.”
Bower says her family wants the cemetery to change the path of the driveway, instead of excavating and moving Sisco’s grave.
Making matters worse, according to Bower, the cemetery board initially refused to allow her to be present during the movement of the grave and casket.
“It did get heated,” said Bower, describing the wide range of emotions as her family argued with members of the cemetery board.
“They then suggested we have mom out in 30 days, they gave us a, by November 1st, the anniversary of mom’s death,” she added.
Newschannel 3 reached out to cemetery board president Richard Morris to comment and give perspective on the situation, but Morris declined the Newschannel 3 I-Team’s request for comment.
A lawyer for Pretty Prairie United Methodist Cemeteries has not returned Newschannel 3’s multiple requests to comment either.
Sisco’s family members tell Newschannel 3 they have since hired an attorney to try and keep Sisco at her current location, near other family members.
“This is so fixable,” said Bower. “Move the driveway eight to ten feet, that is it, but they’re not willing to do that.”
Newschannel 3’s I-Team previously uncovered and investigated cemetery laws in Michigan, which seem to exempt cemeteries owned by religious organizations or municipalities from certain regulations.
Indiana law also gives a bit more leeway to religious organizations operating cemeteries, such as Pretty Prairie, where Sisco is buried.
“All burial rights held in the cemetery are subject in all things to the rules and regulations of the owner of the cemetery that are enacted by the governing head or body of the cemetery,” reads Indiana cemetery law, in part.
Meanwhile, Sisco’s family is weighing its options, and hoping their story is a warning to others.
“If no other family has to go through this, we’ve accomplished what we need to accomplish,” said Bower.