THE TOP 10 STORIES OF THE YEAR
#6 - Grand View cemetery in crisis
From GLENDALE NEWS-PRESS
Published Friday, December 28, 2007 10:17 PM PST
More than two years since Grand View Memorial Park came under fire from state investigators for alleged improper operations, the Glendale cemetery remains embroiled in lawsuits, and its doors remain locked to families and loved ones of the deceased buried there. But 2007 was nevertheless a year of twists and turns for Glendale’s oldest cemetery.
The ongoing saga started in October 2005 when an inspector from the California Department of Consumer Affairs Cemetery and Funeral Bureau uncovered at the cemetery a closet filled with cremated remains of about 4,000 people who were never buried or properly disposed of.
Cemetery stakeholder Moshe Goldsman, who took over the cemetery in November 2005 from its majority stakeholder Marsha Lee Howard, who died in November 2006, closed the park in June 2006 due to lack of funds. The City Council, responding to an outraged community, voted in August 2006 to open the cemetery for limited visiting hours on Sundays.
But faced in June with keeping the park open or ending its efforts with the cemetery — which it is not legally obligated to keep open — the City Council voted to spend $187,600 to pay for maintenance and operation costs for another year. Extremely dry conditions at the cemetery, which resulted in dead trees and safety hazards, have kept the cemetery closed to the public since June.
Upon further review of the cemetery’s condition and building costs of maintenance, the council in August backed off its plans to maintain the park, moving instead to file suit against the cemetery owners, ordering them to abate a public nuisance.
That suit prompted Goldsman to come up with a maintenance plan that involves installation of an irrigation system and major tree removal or pruning work. The work started Dec. 21 and is expected to take four to six months. But what remains unclear is whether the city of Glendale will commit funds to staff the facility once safety hazards are mitigated.
Ongoing legal proceedings had halted all business at the cemetery since 2005, even for families that had purchased plots prior to the state’s investigation. That changed temporarily on Feb. 1 this year when a judge ordered that Geneva Hegemier’s remains be interred in a Grand View mausoleum. After another court-ordered interment in February, funeral workers trying to bury the body of John Lenn in April found signs of an existing casket already in the plot that had been sold to Lenn’s family and canceled the burial.
More than 140 people have joined a class-action suit filed in November 2005 against cemetery owners. Another 100 people filed a personal injury suit in July this year.
The owners and operators named in both suits include Howard, Goldsman, Jack Grossman, who ran the cemetery from 1990 to 1999, and members of the Hepburn family, which ran the cemetery from 1929 to 1990.
The case remains in the pretrial discovery phase, during which attorneys secure the appropriate documents and gather facts and information on the plots and financial history of the cemetery.
Howard was replaced in January as a defendant in the class-action lawsuit by her estate, which her brother, Thomas Trimble, administers.