Mourning families look for answers from gravestone companies
Posted January 19, 2012
Fayetteville, N.C. — A gravestone is a final tribute to a loved one lost. But viewers who complained to 5 On Your Side say they've dealt with months of frustrations and heartache trying to get the gravestones they ordered for their loved ones who died.
The businesses in question were owned by a man who retired and gave one location to his daughter, Phyllis Hester Rittenhouse, and the other to his son, Robert Hester. Later, the siblings traded locations. The two both say there have been problems, but when it comes to who is to blame, they each point the finger at the other. The Better Business Bureau gives both locations an F rating.
Janet Adams said her son bought a stone from Cape Fear Memorials in Fayetteville while he was battling cancer. "He tried to do everything he could to fix things so I wouldn't have to be bothered with it," Adams said.
When Adams got the death date engraved, the headstone ended up scratched, smudged and faded. Adams said Cape Fear Memorials has not responded to her calls and letters to fix the problems. "It's been very stressful because they have not cooperated in any way," Adams said. "They have promised to return my calls, they have promised to do this. They have not done anything."
Ernestine Inman dealt with similar issues after buying a gravestone for her husband, Angus. Inman bought her stone at the same Fayetteville location which is now called Quality Monuments, but her receipt says Quality Monuments in Bladenboro. She says the $1400 monument with a barely readable date, scratches and dark splotches is not what she ordered.
“It looks like it's a hundred years old to me," Inman said. "I said 'That thing's dirty, and I didn't pay for a dirty one, I paid for a new one.'"
Another viewer said she waited six months to get her mother's headstone engraved by Cape Fear Memorials, saying she received several excuses when she called for answers. Two other people also say they waited several months to receive headstones, one called the owner insensitive, rude and mean. The complainants dealt with various family members at both the Fayetteville and Bladenboro locations.
5 On Your Side reporter Monica Laliberte went to Fayetteville to visit the business, where a sign out front says Memory Lane Memorials. When asked about the problems with Ernestine Inman's stone, operator Phyllis Rittenhouse said she offered to replace the headstone free of charge, because it “wasn’t good enough” for Inman. She added, “It’s not something that I had to do.”
Rittenhouse also admitted that she had not seen the stone, and that she told Inman she would replace it by Christmas, which did not happen. When Laliberte pressed for a date, Rittenhouse said only, "It will be replaced."
When 5 On Your Side asked about Janet Adams' case, Rittenhouse said she did not recognize the name. Soon after, she told Laliberte to leave.
“I don't know that my issue will be resolved," Adams said. "I think these people need to be exposed for the type of business they're doing. People don't need the grief at a time like this."
Ernestine Inman added, “It worries you. When you get older, things worry you. And it worries me.“
Four of the people of who complained to 5 On Your Side have since received their headstones. Robert Hester, owner of Cape Fear Memorials which is now in Bladenboro, accepted responsibility for the problems with Janet Adams' stone and agreed to replace it. She says he told her it will be done by Jan. 27. Phyllis Rittenhouse now says she will replace Ernestine Inman's stone by the end of the month.