5 On Your Side

Mourning families look for answers from gravestone companies

Posted January 19, 2012

— 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.”

gravestone Mourning families want answers from gravestone companies

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.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • americaneel Jan 23, 2012

    cfmemorials...Who was the other company?

  • dollibug Jan 23, 2012

    ++++It would be easy to "put these companies out of business".

    This would probably be as easy as putting "bad attorneys out of business" or "holding the Judicial System accountable and responsible for what they do"....Corrupt people ALWAYS find a way to do what they want to do....

  • superman Jan 23, 2012

    It would be easy to "put these companies out of business". When relatives are making funeral arrangements the funeral home should alert them that those two companies do not provide a quality product. Stones are usually puchased after a funeral so they would either improve what they are doing or they wouldnt be able to stay in business.

  • superman Jan 23, 2012

    When she asked the reporter to leave that is a very good indication that she wasnt interested in resolving the issues. You cant fix it when you refuse to talk about it. The funeral home should alert relatives that they should not do business with them when they want to purchase a headstone.

  • eoglane Jan 20, 2012

    Need to keep these business in mind (DO NOT TO USE), if you have done it once, when everything gets quite, they will be doing the same shaby business

  • cpdtg Jan 20, 2012

    When Monica knocks on ur door time to get busy DOIN RIGHT

  • cavewoman192003 Jan 20, 2012

    I think that her being impatient wasn't the problem. She waited long enough to have the problem fixed, after having waited months on end with probably no return calls or any effort on the companies behalf she decided to take her business elsewhere which is what any one of us would have done. It's bad enough that she is mourning the loss of a family member, but then to deal with a company that only concerns themselves if there's payment makes it that much worse for the families involved. By writing a all CAPS response shows the public that they are furious about being called out for the work they didn't finish. A true company that cares for the individuals that they do business with wouldn't write such a retraction unless all stories weren't heard. The company was given every opportunity to correct the problem and even respond to the allegations that were stated and they decided not to. The fault is on the company not the consumers who thought they would receive a quality product.

  • GravyPig Jan 20, 2012

    "cape fear memorials is a responsible company. this work was performed by another company. this is wrong the way a tv station can falsely accuse" - cfmemorials

    I highly doubt that they would falsly accuse. If the company proveded the services they promised then there would be no bad press.

  • bigal02282 Jan 20, 2012

    Falsely Accuse? Your companies were given the opportunity to respond, and look at how you handled it. Like lying children mad because you got caught in the act. Tells us a LOT about your character, morals, and business practices. Hope it says "Closed" on your doors if you keep up that attitude.

  • bigal02282 Jan 20, 2012

    You take thousands of dollars for a memorial stone. You promise delivery. If you deliver, the work is shoddy and your response is "I didn't see if before it left". Or you don't deliver and make excuses for over 6 months. You change your business name 3 times. Your response to issues is to get mad, make excuses and continue to deflect criticism to others. Yes, you are responsible. But if every business ran the way yours did, none of them would be in business very long. I'm hoping this story keeps the spotlight on yours for a while. (Saying that there were "Rumors" about our company going around on your Facebook page is not "responsible" either. Accept responsibility, own up to your mistakes and correct the problems. Otherwise, the "rumors" will continue to grow and you'll soon be looking for work like a lot of GOOD folks out there.