Bristow Cemetery Owner Under Investigation
By Amanda Taylor, The News On 6
BRISTOW, OK -- A grieving family says not only did a cemetery have inexcusable delays setting their mother's grave marker - they made a mistake on it that would have her rolling in her grave.
Jim Barton's mother is buried at the Magnolia Memorial Cemetery in Bristow, and Jim says if he could move her out, he'd do it because of the hassle surrounding her grave marker.
"My sister noticed just before Thanksgiving it wasn't here, and the person we ordered it from wouldn't return our call," Jim Barton said.
The person he ordered it from is Ron Schumacher who owns the cemetery. What was supposed to take about a month to get in - has taken six.
"Somehow this slipped through the cracks. We did not get it properly funded," said cemetery owner Ron Schumacher.
Schumacher also owns a funeral home and sells prepaid funeral arrangements. The Oklahoma Insurance Department uncovered he had taken the prepayments of 82 people and used them to make risky investments.
By law he's allowed to invest conservatively - like in certificates of deposit or bonds, but the Insurance Department says Schumacher's risky move lost about $100,000 of customer's money.
"What I've done is the same thing I've done as far as investing in equities and American-owned companies since 2000, 2001.
Schumacher said he didn't think he was doing anything wrong, but the state ordered him to repay the accounts of customers whose money has lost, which he has already done.
"Bottom line, I have a responsibility to uphold the contract," Schumacher said. "My name's on the sign. I'm a little, tiny private business, but I would go to my grave before I'd fail to fulfill a contract."
He did eventually get Jim's mother's grave marker set - but the problems with that continue.
"There should be an ampersand sign here, so it should say loving mother and grandmother," Jim Barton said. "That's what we ordered, and that emblem should be here also.
"She wouldn't have appreciated it at all," Barton said of his late mother. "She would have been upset."
That's because his mother, Janie Elkins, was an English teacher for more than 40 years.
"He finally agreed to make it right," Barton said. "So, my sister drove up here about three weeks ago to order another one which is what he wanted her to do.
"But then when she got up here, he told her he wasn't going to do it."
Cemetery owner Ron Schumacher denies that he refused to replace the grave marker.
"No, I never said that," he said. "We've been in business a long time. We stand behind what we say."
Schumacher said he has already contacted the company to remake the marker, and it should be in place within three weeks.
"All I can do is apologize and honor my contracts and commitments," he said.
The Oklahoma Funeral Board is investigating the matter, and the insurance department has temporarily suspended Schumacher's license so he cannot sell prepared funeral plans until a final ruling in March.
A good safety recommendation is that anyone who purchases a prepaid trust should ask questions about how the money will be invested, and what steps are taken to protect it.