UPDATE: AL widower ordered to exhume his wife's body from yard
James Davis watches as his wife's tomb is removed from their front yard Friday. Photo by Jared Guest/WRCBtv.com
STEVENSON, AL (WRCB) - A North Alabama man says a judge forced him to defy his wife's dying wish to be buried in their front yard. It was a legal battle that went all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court, but the widower lost in the end.
74-year-old James Davis says he promised his wife Patsy that when she died, he'd bury her in the front yard of the Stevenson home they shared for decades. So, that's exactly what he did when she passed away in 2009. But, keeping that promise caused a four-year long legal battle, finally leading to the removal of her remains Friday.
"We had 48 years, one month and four days together," James said, "She was my rock."
James says he can't pick just one thing he misses most about his wife Patsy.
"Everything, companionship, love," James said.
Friday, James, their five children, grand kids and great-grand kids gathered one last time in prayer over what was supposed to be Patsy's final resting place.
Then, the pain began all over again.
"Didn't want it to happen but it has and we'll live with it. We're glad the mayor finally gets what he wants," James said.
The city of Stevenson sued Davis, saying if they let him have a grave in his front yard, it may set a precedent for others to do it, too. He appealed all the way up to the Alabama Supreme Court, and lost. A judge approved the plan to exhume this week.
"What happened was wrong. It wasn't the law, but I got to live with it. But, they have to go to judgement one day. God will take care of them," James said.
Family members held each other, in tears, as the vault holding Patsy's body left the grave.
James tried to show strength.
"I'm trying to be that for the children, but inside I'm not," James said.
Within minutes, they covered the empty grave. James followed Patsy's remains to the place where she was cremated. He plans to keep her ashes inside the log cabin that they say will always be called "Mama's House."
"It's not an easy thing for me, but I'll get over it. You know, I still have Mama," James said.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Jenifer Holt gave the order, pointing to a state law that allows cities to regulate and prohibit private burials within town limits.
Mr. Davis says their joint headstone, though now empty, will stay put, as well as the big sign in the yard that says "Let Patsy Rest In Peace."