Crowd calls for action at sick cemetery

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Cheyanne Crystal Barefoot, left, addresses a crowd of more than 200 gathered at Harnett Devotional Gardens on Saturday evening. Standing with her is Tiffany Boykin. They called the meeting to address concerns surrounding the cemetery. DAILY RECORD PHOTO / EMILY WEAVER

By Emily Weaver
Dunn’s daily record

JC Peacock died on April 1, 2021 and was buried in Harnett Devotional Gardens two days later.

A few weeks later, his grave was sold to another buyer, according to his daughter, Cheyanne Crystal Barefoot.

“They sold my father’s grave when he was already buried,” she told a crowd of more than 200 at the beleaguered cemetery on Saturday night.

Many attendees came with their own complaints — haphazard lawn maintenance, drip-stained graves in a leaky mausoleum, missing headstones, eroded walkways, and money being paid for services that wouldn’t have been rendered in a perpetual care cemetery. . Two hundred of them have signed a petition demanding changes and improvements to Harnett Devotional Gardens.

An entrance to Harnett Devotional Gardens, off Fairground Road, is seen here in the early afternoon of July 20. DAILY RECORD PHOTO / RON MCLAMB

Barefoot called the meeting to muster a united force in future actions against the company that now owns it. More than 175 complaints lodged at the petitions table, including one dating back to a tombstone that has been missing since 1984.

Barefoot’s complaint dates back to 2021.

A family friend bought the land in the cemetery office and “went there to find out where they would be buried and found my father was buried there,” Barefoot said. “They went back to the office and asked for their money.”

Barefoot told the crowd that he was recently asked to come into the office to check out one of his family’s pitches. She did, but now encourages other families, who are called to do the same, not to.

Justin Watts mows a lawn at Harnett Devotional Gardens on Wednesday, July 20. He said he had recently been hired to maintain the grounds. Several complaints have been filed with cemetery owners and the North Carolina Cemetery Commission about tall weeds and grass around the graves in recent weeks. DAILY RECORD PHOTO / RON MCLAMB

“That shouldn’t be happening because if they have their records right, you already have a copy. They shouldn’t be asking us to update. I was asked… not to fill out this paperwork so that when the audit will take place, it will be on our side and not theirs,” she said.

Harnett Devotional Gardens was once considered a gem of a place to bury in Dunn with its box hedges, crape myrtles and gently rolling green fields. But now some people with buried loved ones say it’s a little ‘too green’ with knee-high weeds and overgrown headstones. The pitches were cut before Saturday’s game.

The leaking mausoleum was also thoroughly cleaned.

Evelyn McLamb says she first reported a leak at the mausoleum in 2012.

The mausoleum, seen here, at Harnett Devotional Gardens has had a problem with leaks since 2012, according to a 2013 complaint filed with the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. DAILY RECORD PHOTO / RON MCLAMB

“My husband is buried there and I also have a crypt for myself. This mausoleum has been leaking for over a year and has not been repaired,” she said in a December 19, 2013 complaint to the North Carolina attorney general’s office.

Barefoot says they are forming a committee and plan to forward the petition and all complaints to Attorney General Josh Stein in the coming days.

“It’s not the last time we’ll be meeting here guys. This is only the beginning. We will not be silent. We’re here to stand up and that’s what we’re going to do,” Barefoot said. The crowd cheered.

“It’s not just for us. It’s for this whole cemetery.

State Rep. Howard Penny (R-Harnett) addresses a crowd gathered at Harnett Devotional Gardens Saturday night. DAILY RECORD PHOTO / EMILY WEAVER

State Representative Howard Penny (R-Harnett) told the group he also plans to take action, adding that he, too, has loved ones buried in the Devotional Gardens.

Penny says he plans to meet with Wynn Graham, formerly of Rose & Graham Funeral Home and a member of the North Carolina Cemetery Commission, and the commission itself, to see what the General Assembly can do to address and prevent these types problems crop up in state cemeteries.

“…To make sure that when you invest money, you will get what you asked for,” he said.

Barefoot invites anyone having problems at Harnett Devotional Gardens to email the new committee at [email protected] Complaints can also be filed with Stein’s office online at ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/ or by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or 919-716-6000.

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