City says woman can’t be buried in family plot

Kent County

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids woman had a simple wish to be laid to rest next to her parents, but her loved ones say the city of Cedar Springs is denying her that wish.

Gracia Blanchard’s body in limbo because the city won’t allow her to be buried in the plot, even though it is already paid for.

“She (Blanchard) says, ‘This is where I want to be,'” her fiancé Ken Jager said. “I says, ‘OK.'” 

He wants to keep his promise. 

Blanchard and Jager were together for 50 years before she died from a sudden heart attack last week.

“She loved life. It was just a total shock,” Jager said.

The retired teacher talked to Jager about the plots her parents purchased at Elmwood Cemetery. So when she died, Jager told the funeral home to make arraignments. They got a red flag from Cedar Springs, which runs the cemetery.

Gracia Blanchard
The city of Cedar Spring says Gracia Blanchard can’t be buried in a plot purchased by her parents. (July 31, 2019)

“They basically said the cemetery will not allow her to be buried next to her folks because the deed to the cemetery plots was not passed down verbally by Gracia,” Jager said. “Gracia was supposed to go out there and tell them, ‘I want this plot in my name.'”

Funeral experts told 24 Hour News 8 that is not the normal procedure. Traditionally, plots are passed down to the next of kin automatically.

“They won’t listen at all,” Jager said of city officials. “We’ve talked to them a number of times and they are very cold about it.”

24 Hour News 8 tried multiple times to talk to city officials Wednesday. City Manager Mike Womack refused an in-person interview but did send an email that read in part:

“My understanding is that city staff have been presented with either no or insufficient evidence to prove ownership of a cemetery plot,” he wrote. “City staff will be happy to assist your viewer and/or their legal counsel to the best of our ability to facilitate the closure of this matter.”

Jager said the funeral home will only hold the body until Monday. He could buy another plot, but it wouldn’t be next to her parents.

“She’s the only child. There is no one else interested in the lots. And we asked the clerk what happens to these lots and she said, ‘Nothing.’ They just sit there empty. I said that doesn’t make sense,” Jager recalled.

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