Family says graveside service for father was a fiasco

Family says graveside service for father was a fiasco

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Dinwiddie family says they're traumatized after dealing with what they describe as a fiasco of a graveside service for their father.

Robert Brooks Sr. died July 4 after a short fight with lung cancer.

Two days before Brooks died, his sons Chris and Mark went to Forest Lawn Cemetery to make arrangements for their father.

"His wishes were to be buried with his mother and father and brother at Forest Lawn, as long as his wife of 53 years, could be buried there with him," Mark said.

The Brooks brothers paid nearly $8,000 for the double-depth grave, vault, burial, and grave marker for their father.

But they said when they showed up for the graveside service scheduled for July 10th at 10:30 a.m., nothing was ready.

"There were three or four tractors, five or six guys standing around there at the gravesite," Mark said. "There was no lowering device, no canopy, no chairs. Nothing.

According to Chris, the grave wasn't dug deep enough for the double-depth grave they purchased through the contract.

"This tractor was going to dig the hole the remaining depth in front of my mother," Mark said. "My mother was married to my father for 53 years... she's already devastated. We weren't going to allow that to happen."

Despite the hole not deep enough, the family said they were encouraged to move forward with the graveside service, placing the casket catty-corner on top of the vault, on the ground, next to the hole.

After that service, the Brooks recorded video of a tractor digging the rest of the grave, and lowering the vault into the ground.

"We watched that tractor pick up the vault, with my father's body in it, and put it in the hole after they finished digging it," Mark said.

"It was so dishonoring to my dad," said Anna Mallory, Brooks Sr.'s daughter.

"I don't feel like for what we paid, like we got any service whatsoever from them," Chris said. "I would have never expected it to go like it did, and I wish I had a better memory of his final day on Earth."

The family met with management of Forest Lawn Cemetery three days after the burial.

In an audio recording of the meeting obtained by NBC12, a manager told the family, "We dropped the ball, it's our fault. We need to own up to it, take responsibility. They're already hurt enough."

"They did admit fault," Mark said. "They said that this was not the proper procedure. This is not what's supposed to happen... but it doesn't change anything because there's no do overs. It's done."

During that meeting the Brooks added they were offered a $3,400 refund for the situation they went through.

The Brooks did not accept it. Rather, Mark would like the cemetery to write an apology to every person in attendance at the service. Chris is looking at legal options, but open to more conversations with management.

"Just go on and give us our money back," Chris said. "You dishonored by father, just give me my money back."

Additionally, as the family left the cemetery they said the noticed another section had been set up for a graveside service, complete with all the items outlined in the contract.

"It just made it worse," Anna said. "We had to wonder why ours was like it was and why did we come up and have to put [our dad] back in the hearse, and then he had to be left sitting in the sun on top of the vault. We had tractors out there… it was horrible!"

Forest Lawn Cemetery spokesman, David Shane said:

Forest Lawn Cemetery's mission is to help families memorialize every life with dignity, including providing and maintaining a tranquil and beautiful place for memorialization. In this instance, we have fallen short of our standards. The matter is being addressed, and we want to reassure our families and the local community that we are committed to serving them and their loved ones.

However, the Brooks are also concerned about what will happen when their mother passes. They said they already paid for their mother's vault when they were making arrangements for their father.

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