A series of errors in regards to a burial plot led to the exhumation of a woman buried for six months in the Enterprise Cemetery. Marsha Beier, the stepmother of one of the parties involved, related the story to the Chieftain.
In January 2019, Seattle resident, Lucille Beier died. The former Enterprise resident had told her daughters she wished to be buried in the Enterprise Cemetery where her parents were also buried. She also told her children she’d purchased a burial plot with her parents.
When the daughters called, the cemetery could find no record of it, but an empty space was available next to the woman’s father, so her daughters purchased that plot and had their mother buried there.
This should be the end of the story. But it isn’t.
Several weeks later, the family received a call from the cemetery saying that a couple visiting the grave of their deceased child noted the Beier tombstone. The problem? The couple already had a deed to the plot.
Cemetery officials told the daughters their mother would have to be moved — at no expense to them. Marsha Beier said that whoever the family spoke to at the time also explained that the cemetery records were in disarray.
“I think they’re learning as they make mistakes — that’s what I think is going on,” Beier said. “That’s a horrible thing, and I don’t know why they don’t notify in the paper, or publicly some way, that they’ve had some record errors and people who think they have a plot need to contact them.”
Marsha Beier now wonders if her mother actually did purchase the plot she originally mentioned and that poorly kept records forced the family to pay for two plots.
“It makes you leery,” she said. “She ended up close to her parents, but not where she wanted to be.”
“I don’t want someone to go through what my girls went through,” she said. “We’re really going to be nice about it, but some people might not be.”
Cemetery Sexton Gay Fregulia said a records conversion from hand-written journals to digital records contributed to the error. She said the hand-written records could have been more detailed, but they were poorly kept.
Fregulia’s version of events is very similar to the Beier’s version. She did say the family with the deed to Lucille Beier’s plot called about two weeks after the interment.
They had purchased three plots in the early 1950s: one for the deceased daughter and two for themselves. Although Fregulia has a year or so under her belt as sexton, she said that it was her understanding that the cemetery records were converted to digital records sometime in the early 2000s.
Fregulia said that because of the way some of the records were entered into the journals, the one or more people who carried out the conversion task missed a few, and they didn’t end up in the digital records. This included the two additional spaces the child’s parents purchased for themselves.
“I’d only been working here for a year at the time, and I just assumed the computer records were just gospel,” Fregulia said. “Now I know better.”
Once contacted by the original purchasers of the plots, Fregulia went back to the old journals and confirmed the information.
“They’d changed the numbering system since then, so it’s not real straightforward,” she said. “It’s still pretty good considering it’s been done by multiple people over time.”
After verification, Fregulia contacted the Beier family and told them another plot was available just east of where Lucille Beier was buried.
“We moved her to that space at no cost to the family,” she said. Fregulia added it was an unfortunate situation and the cemetery district board felt bad about it.
“I know its touchy anytime you’re dealing with deceased family,” she said. “We did what we could and as far as I know, Lucille is resting peacefully and the original family is happy to have their space back.”
After the event, whenever a service is held in the cemetery, she checks all the vacant spaces in the row. If any are not in the computerized records, she goes back to the journals to update the digital system.
“So far I’ve found two others,” she said. “In conversation with others who have done this job in the past, there have been other instances in years back, but relatively few with the numbers and the records changeover taken into account. We do our best.”