Severe Weather Alerts

Des Moines Family Fed Up With Local Cemetery Issues; Owners Respond

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  A family that has several relatives buried at Sunset Memorial Gardens cemetery said the grounds aren’t being taken care of.

“If you drive around, over in the north end of the cemetery, I’d say northeast end of the cemetery, there’s a lot of new plots out there that are sinking in, a lot of dead grass. The oxford one where you could climb underneath the headstone, like I said, it was 2017, and in the middle of the cemetery they’re caving in really bad,” Amy Schultz said.

Schultz’s sister said it’s a safety issue.

“They still have to walk over and maybe fall in a hole. And they don’t want that. That’s kind of embarrassing to fall in someone else's grave,” Tammy Hall said.

The owner said the cemetery has three full-time groundskeepers to take care of 30 acres.

“We’re constantly seeding. We’re constantly filling low spaces, it’s just an ongoing process,” owner Blair Overton said.

He said they never know how much a certain area will settle, and as for the dry areas, without an irrigation system they rely on Mother Nature.

“It also depends on the last time we repaired the grave. So a lot of times if you see someone that doesn’t have fresh grass and it’s been a couple years, that could be the case where we actually came back and refilled,” Overton said.

Schultz said when she asked about fixing her plots herself, they told her she couldn’t.

“It’s private property. It’s against the law. You’re not allowed to bring dirt in or grass seed in, and if you do, do it after hours,” Schultz said.

But the owner said that’s bad information and they welcome people to come help.

“We have families come out and work on their spaces all the time. If they want to come out and work on it, uncover the space a little bit more, put down grass seed, fill in a hole they don’t like…people do that all the time, and they find it rewarding and helpful, and if we can help them, we certainly do,” Overton said, adding the owners will do whatever they can to rectify the issue.

“If we dropped the ball, we apologize. We want people to be happy. We have customers forever. We take that to heart,” Overton said.

He said anyone who has an issue with the grounds can visit the cemetery's office and officials will make a work order that's sent to groundskeepers. Work orders are taken care of first before crews move on to general maintenance.