83ºF

Community group works to restore east San Antonio cemetery

Families upset with lack of progress at Eastview Cemetery

photo

SAN ANTONIO – Scharlette Donald was disheartened to see the condition of a relative's grave site during a recent visit to the Southern Memorial Park and Eastview Cemetery where several generations of her family are buried.

"When I went out there on Mother's Day, I found weeds over his grave site and I had to pull them up myself," Donald said. "I walked away not only angry but heartbroken."

Following years of mounting complaints, the Texas Attorney General's Office filed a lawsuit last November against owner Joanne Ramone.

In addition to what it called "deplorable" conditions, the state said Ramone's license was revoked in 2011.

Relatives with family members in the cemetery have complained about high weeds, brush, missing and broken headstones and sinking graves.

Despite the unresolved lawsuit, the condition of the cemetery really hasn't improved much in the past year. While some areas had recently been mowed, there were still plenty of high weeds around making it almost impossible to find some headstones.

A sign posted at the gate reminds families that the cemetery is not a "perpetual care cemetery" and it's their responsibility to maintain their own plots.

While the common areas are supposed to be maintained by the owner, many families question what is actually being maintained.

"There are a number of graves that are just completely covered over. You run your foot on the ground and uncover a grave that's been covered for who knows how long," said Mario Salas, a former San Antonio city councilman who also has family members buried at the cemetery. "The garbage cans are full, there's wild dogs roaming around out there and it's just a lingering problem."

Salas is now heading up a community effort to restore the cemetery.

He thinks he could get volunteers to help clean up the mess and maintain the grounds but the owner hasn't been cooperative.

"I think there are a number of people who would be willing to do some volunteer work out there and clean the place up but in the past when we've tried to do that we've had no cooperation from the owner," Salas said. "If the owner is not going to cooperate, we certainly want to join in with the Attorney General on that lawsuit."

Nicole Henning, the attorney representing the owner, said she filed a countersuit against the state for targeting a minority business and she is continuing to work toward a resolution.

In the meantime, Scharlette Donald and other families with loved ones in the cemetery will have to deal with the existing conditions.

"These are incredible people that lived in San Antonio and died here," Donald said. "We should treat them better." 

cemetery slideshow

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.


About the Author: