Residents upset about neglected cemetery: "I couldn't even find - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Residents upset about neglected cemetery: "I couldn't even find my grave marker":

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SPRING CITY, TN (WRCB) - A local cemetery needs a lot of work after being neglected for months. Families can't seem to find anyone in charge to help clean up Spring City Memorial Gardens.

Walter Alley and his wife, Jo, were married for 66 years. After battling Alzheimer's, Jo was buried at the cemetery two weeks ago.

"It's hard for me just to know that I won't see her anymore. But to know that her grave plot has been so mistreated, it's really hard to take," said Alley.

Alley bought their side-by-side lot back in the 1970s. Now, he said it looks like Jo was placed right in the middle of it.

"If that's so, it's probably gonna have to come up... and move the body," he said.

That's just one complaint at Spring City Memorial Gardens.

"We're concerned about the future of this cemetery," said Lee Miller, who purchased lots there. Some of his family is buried there as well.

"It's heartbreaking when you see dirt piles that have been piled up for six and seven months and left. Graves have been sunken in," he said.

According to Miller, the grass was knee-high last week. Rhea County Executive George Thacker said he got a volunteer crew to come out, even though caring for the cemetery isn't the county's responsibility.

"You wouldn't think I've been out here on a lawnmower mowing it, but I have," Thacker said.

According to state records, Spring City Memorial Gardens was last registered to Gabe Mullinax of Knoxville. Channel 3 tried contacting him. His voice mail directs anyone asking about the memorial gardens to call the state.

Public records show the cemetery's license expired at the end of last year. Tennessee allows a nine month grace period to renew it. But after that deadline, the law isn't clear on what happens next.

However, the statute is clear on failing to keep a cemetery in good shape.

"I couldn't even find it. Grass was up over top of it," Robert Swenney said about his grave marker.

"The marker is done," he said.

"I'm hoping that whoever's responsible for this will see the grief and so forth that families are taking because of mishandling of grave plots," said Alley.

Channel 3 tried reaching a spokesperson with the State Burial Services, but our calls were not returned.

Concerned residents said they hope either someone else can buy the cemetery or the community can create a local non-profit that would help care for the grounds.
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