SINTON, Texas — Imagine burying a loved one, only to find the grave and most of the of the cemetery has been neglected.
It's been happening at a cemetery in Sinton, and Olga Rodriguez, who has family members buried there, wants to know why. So she's called the Troubleshooters for help.
The plaque at the entrance of the Eternal Rest Cemetery on the business highway in Sinton says it was opened in April 1960.
"I remember a time when the cemetery was locked every night," Rodriguez told us via Zoom. "And I remember a time when you could walk in and it was beautiful."
Rodriguez is among many families with loved ones at the cemetery who think it doesn't look so beautiful anymore. There's been a lack of maintenance, with many grave sites hidden by uncut grass and the front gate left unlocked.
"It was so overwhelming. It was so neglected. And there were so many people there with weed eaters taking care of their own plots," Rodriguez said.
Turns out, there was an Eternal Rest Cemetery Association responsible for maintenance and the business of running the cemetery. We found out a man named Martin Gonzales served as president and treasurer for the last few years, on a voluntary basis.
We did make multiple attempts to contact the now former president of the Cemetery Association, but he has not returned our calls. Nor did he show up for a meeting held last week to elect a new president and board.
In an email to the Troubleshooters, Rodriguez wrote that after speaking with Gonzales, in-person, during a volunteer clean-up at Eternal Rest, on July 3, "he informed me (Rodriguez) that he had not submitted any kind of paperwork on behalf of the association for at least six years. He also informed me that he was accepting money for plots and keeping the money in the bank in an account for the Eternal Rest Cemetery Association. He refused to share any of the financial information with me."
According to Rodriguez and the association's new president Ruby Perez, Eternal Rest is a perpetual care cemetery. That means members pay dues, and those dues are supposed to be put into an account and used to pay for a lifetime of maintenance, including lawn care, garbage pick-up, and grave site upkeep.
On Tuesday, August 31, members and other family members decided it was time to take action and do something about Eternal Rest Cemetery. They voted and elected Perez as president, along with four new board member positions.
We asked Perez why a meeting had to be called and if there was an old board.
She said at one point, there was an old board.
"I'm not sure what happened to the old board," she said.
The first order of business, according to Perez, is going through boxes and boxes full of financial and other records for the cemetery association. But that can't happen until they meet with the local bank where the account is.
She also told us current bylaws require three meetings annually in January, May, and September. Members will be required to pay $10 annual fees to pay for maintenance.
Perez says there will be a voluntary clean-up September 11 beginning at 8 a.m. to start the process.