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Avon cemetery flooding issues trigger more complaints, community meeting

Posted at 8:14 AM, May 18, 2019

AVON, Ohio — It was Mother's Day 2019 that left Hope Helbert and her family in despair after she visited Resthaven Memory Gardens in Avon, Ohio, to place flowers on her mother's grave site.

Helbert said she found he mothers resting place disrupted and dug-up, a large hole next to the site filled with water and tire tracks, where cemetery staff had driven over multiple graves.

“When we arrived on Mothers Day, we were really gut-punched,” Helbert said.

“We come here to put flowers, and remember her on Mother’s Day and we find this area all torn-up."

“If I had come in here with an ATV and done damage like that I would be arrested, it would be against the law.”

Mary Smelcer and her family explained their shock and disappointment during her husband's burial at Resthaven in August 2018.

Returning to the gravesite on Valentines Day 2019, only to find the grave underwater.

Smelcer and several other families have contacted News 5 over the past year to show us numerous pictures and video of chronic flooding at the cemetery, poor service and maintenance.

But Smelcer said she believes little has changed since she first contacted cemetery owners. Stonemor Partners LP.

"We had a horrific burial, it was unbelievable," Smelcer said. "Yes, I just want to get my husband out of here. But I pray that everybody else's issues here get solved because this cemetery is just nothing but a joke."

Katie Hildebrand, who started her own Facebook page called Rescuing Resthaven Cemetery, told News 5 she's been in contact with Stonemor executives who told her a repair plan is on the way.

"It is very sad and it's heartbreaking that it takes this much effort just to do the right thing," Hildebrand said.

"I'm encouraged that they want to try to start working with the community. I'm a little cautious because so many promises have been broken in the past," Hildebrand said.

A community meeting is set-up in Avon for May 21 at 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Ragan Hall, 1783 Moore Road.

Meanwhile Stonemor Partners LP issued the following statement in response to our story:

"Resthaven Memory Gardens' mission is to help families memorialize every life with dignity, including providing and maintaining a tranquil and beautiful place for memorialization. We are working on multiple fronts to improve conditions at the property. This includes a comprehensive drainage solution, and we are in consultation with engineering professionals to develop these plans. When completed, we will make available an outline of the plan at the cemetery office. In the meantime, we want to reassure our families and the local community that we are committed to serving them and their loved ones."

Still, Mary Smelcer believes she and other families have waited far too long to receive the dignity their loved ones deserve.

"I want closure, I haven't had that yet, I just want closure," Smelcer said. "And I want Stonemor to stand-up and do something."