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Saturday, October 26, 2013
Law - "Giving a Wife Her Front-Yard Grave, No Matter What"
The ILB has had several entries on backyard burials, both in Owen County, and in Connecticut.
This week the NY Times had a long story by Campbell Robertson on a front-yard grave, in a small town in Alabama. Some quotes:
STEVENSON, Ala. — James Davis figures that his first mistake was asking permission. If a man promises his wife he will bury her in the front yard, then he should just do so.
But ever since Mr. Davis granted his dying wife’s wish by laying her to rest just off his front porch, he and the City of Stevenson have been at odds. From City Hall to the courts, the government of this little railroad town in southern Appalachia has tried to convince Mr. Davis that a person who lives in a town cannot just set up a cemetery anywhere he likes. On Oct. 11, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed a judge’s decision saying as much.
But Mr. Davis, 74, is not inclined to back down.
“They’re waiting on me to die,” he said early last week, standing on the porch of the log house he built and looking out over his lawn, which along with the grave features an outhouse and a large sign demanding that his wife be allowed to rest in peace. “I am not digging her up.”
Alabama, like most states, has no state law against burying someone on private property, and family graves are not all that rare in the country. Sherry Bradley, the deputy director of environmental services for the State Department of Public Health, said people asked her about private burial several times a week. * * *
While private burials are permitted in rural areas, cities and towns often have ordinances governing the burials, to which the state defers.
Stevenson does not have such an ordinance, though Joshua Slocum, the director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit watchdog group based in Vermont, said this was not atypical. Many cities lack burial ordinances because the issue of private burial hardly ever comes up, he said. * * *
Shortly before her death, Mr. Davis said, she expressed her wish to be buried in the yard of the house where they had spent three decades together. So he went to work, getting approval from the county’s Health Department and pressing the City Council for a permit.
The Council told Mr. Davis that he had not completed the necessary paperwork, and after two meetings, it voted to deny his request, speaking about its potential impact on property values and about who would take care of it in perpetuity. (The tombstone has Mr. Davis’s name beside his wife’s, and he planned to end up in the yard as well.) Parker Edmiston, the city attorney, said he was concerned about setting a precedent.
“If you allow it for Mr. Davis, you allow it for Ms. Adams, Mr. Jones and everyone else,” Mr. Edmiston said, adding that this was the most protracted litigation in the city since a case a few years ago involving something about pigs.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 26, 2013 07:37 PM
Posted to General Law Related