Family outraged that cemetery can't find father's grave

Union Leader Correspondent
November 19. 2013 9:55PM
Howard Felch was buried in the New Pine Grove Cemetery in Raymond in 1994, but cemetery officials cannot find his grave. JASON SCHREIBER 

RAYMOND — Diane Felch's children will gather for her funeral Thursday, but they won't be burying her next to their father.

Felch's sudden death on Nov. 14 has unearthed a situation that has outraged her children, who learned that the town has no record of where their father's remains were buried in the New Pine Grove Cemetery when he died in 1994.

"Mom's only wishes were to be buried next to my dad," said her daughter, Cheryl Denbow.

The cemetery plot problem was discovered when Felch's children began making arrangements to bury their 60-year-old mother, who died unexpectedly at the Berwick, Maine, home she shared with Denbow.

Denbow said she contacted the town's cemetery sexton last Friday and said she was first told that her father, Howard Felch, wasn't in the cemetery, but was later informed that he was placed in a pauper's grave.

"He said that's where they put the poor people who can't afford to purchase graves," she said.

Denbow said she knows his urn is there somewhere because she remembers attending her father's funeral when she was 13 and the family lived in Raymond.

She also found her father's obituary, which states that he was buried there.

"As it stands now, nobody in the town of Raymond has any idea where he is in the cemetery. I find it very disheartening that in this age of information there are no records of anything that's happened," said Felch's son Peter, who now lives in Fremont. He is one of seven children.

Felch's children said their mother couldn't afford a headstone when their father died. The plan was to someday purchase one stone for both names after she passed away.

A wooden cross was placed on the grave site after Howard Felch died, but it has since disappeared. Some of the children visited the cemetery when the cross was there, but haven't been in recent years, Denbow said.

"They can't have a mass burial. They don't just throw people in graves," she said.

Town manager helping

The town is now looking into the matter.

Town Manager Craig Wheeler, who oversees the town's cemeteries, said the family made him aware of the problem Monday and that he is researching to see if he can help locate their father's remains.

"I'm sympathetic to them, personally and professionally," he said. "I would hope that we could help them in some way, and I told them that I would do that."

The family also sought help from Brewitt Funeral Home in its search for answers, but still can't find their father's grave.

With their mother's funeral planned for Thursday, Felch's children said they had to come up with a plan for her burial. They purchased another plot in the cemetery for their mother and hope to eventually find their father's urn and move his remains next to the casket of his late wife.

Destiny Felch, 25, of Greenland, said she was only 5 when her father died.

"I can't even go there to talk to him because they can't locate him," she said.

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