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Grand Prairie Cemetery Taken Over By State

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Robbie Owens Robbie Owens
Robbie grew up in northeast Texas, in a tiny town where her fami...
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GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) – A place intended for perpetual rest inside the city limits has instead become one of non-stop turmoil.

Vivian Ned’s son, Arthur, was buried at American Memorial Cemetery on Hardy Road in April. The question now is, where?

“We can’t even find him,” says Ned. “It hurts. I’m not over his death, yet, and then I come here and get this. I can’t find him. I’m wondering, is he over there in the woods somewhere?”

Arthur Ned was supposed to be buried on April 3. But, family members say when they arrived at the cemetery, there was no gravesite prepared. With severe weather looming, the internment was delayed.

But, just six weeks later, family members arrived at the cemetery to find row upon row of fresh graves –– but, nothing in the area where they were told that Arthur Ned was buried.

“I trusted them,” says Ned. “They don’t have a heart.”

Yolanda Tillmon can find her son’s headstone but that’s where the certainty ends.  The tombstone, she says, has been flipped to face in the opposite direction as though it is resting at his feet instead of his head.

“Really, right now, I don’t know which way my son is laying in this grave.  If you’ve turned his headstone around the other way, then it’s going to look like he’s the other way and you can bury someone on top of him, because you’ve turned it around.”

The cemetery’s current owner, Gerald Weatherall,  says he bought the property two years ago, saying “I bought a mess.”  Weatherall says he keeps the cemetery mowed and insists that is being property maintained. But, says he’s “exhausted” and by week’s end will be “out of the cemetery business.”

But state regulators say Weatherall won’t have much choice in the matter.

Citing concerns about the cemetery’s finances, record keeping, and platting –– which is a fancy way of saying family should be able to easily find graves –– state regulators have halted the sale of future plots in the cemetery. Current owners must honor any current contracts and must continue to maintain the cemetery.

Angela Luckey, Grand Prairie NAACP President, says if she mounds of dirt, garbage, and overgrown thicket that currently mark the cemetery is Weatherall’s idea of ‘maintenance,’ then he should get out of the business.

“It’s shameful,” says Luckey. Luckey has both a professional and personal interest in the cemetery: Generations of her family are buried there.  “We want to be able to find friends and family, not be greeted with weeds and trees that have fallen over onto graves and you can’t even get to them.”

Lucky says the cemetery lies is what was once the heart of the black community, with graves dating back to the early 1900s.

“Freed slaves are buried here,” she said. “This is our history. It’s just heartbreaking.”

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