Memorial maker promises to make amends
Posted February 15, 2012
Fayetteville, N.C. — A local woman faces an unimaginable situation. First, she lost two children in a car crash, now she’s battling with a monument company to install the proper headstone.
Wanda Milller considered the gravestone her final tribute to her children.
“I shouldn't have to fight for this, but I will. My children are worth that,” said Miller.
She ordered the gravestone from a company that’s been the focus of a 5 on Your Side Investigation, Quality Monuments in Fayetteville, owned by Phyllis Hester Rittenhouse.
5 On Your Side’s ongoing investigation involves her company and Cape Fear Memorials in Bladenboro, owned by her brother, Robert Hester.
After seeing our initial story about the complaints, Wanda Miller contacted 5 On Your Side to share her heartbreaking situation.
Her son Eric, 22, and daughter Tera, 18, died in a horrific car crash in South Carolina in 2010. The crash also killed two friends and Wanda Miller’s unborn grandchild.
Miller buried her children together, ordering a ledger-style headstone from Quality Monuments in Fayetteville.
She says owner Phyllis Hester Rittenhouse promised it would be installed by last Christmas. "That was a big thing to me,” said Miller. “It was the last thing that I could give to them."
The headstone was installed, but it wasn't right.
“Late Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning, they just dropped it here," said Miller. “And this is where it's been ever since."
It’s upside down, crooked, not set in the ground properly, and the engraved dragonflies don't look anything like what's on the order form.
The missing piece – perhaps most important to Miller – a picture of her children that's supposed to fill an empty space on the stone.
Miller says she called Quality Monuments several times. Often, she didn't get an answer.
When she finally got a hold of Hester Rittenhouse, “She asked me then, what's wrong with it? I was kind of disgusted by that,” said Miller.
During our investigation, 5 On Your Side received multiple complaints against Quality Monuments, including one from Jackie Walters who paid $2,500 last February for a headstone for her husband.
Mary Williams paid $1,800 for her mother's stone to be installed by Christmas.
Hester Rittenhouse talked with us about the complaints.
5 On Your Side’s Monica Laliberte asked her about the bigger picture of what’s going on..
“The bigger picture, without you honestly calling this to my attention, I had just lost track of things,” said Hester Rittenhouse. “It made me realize, honestly, that I had to get my heart back into it and satisfy my customers."
To do that, she says she will fix things. “I'm completely replacing everything, everything, even the smallest detail that they weren't satisfied with,” said Hester Rittenhouse. “I've got them ordered.”
For Wanda Miller, that can't happen soon enough.
“When you lose somebody, so close to you, you can't put closure on that until everything is complete," said Miller. “That includes their grave, and theirs is not complete. Until it is, I can't finally put them to rest."
5 On Your Side will let you know when Hester Rittenhouse replaces the stone for Wanda Miller and the other customers.
Jackie Walters says Hester Rittenhouse has already been much more involved. Walters is waiting for a final sketch of her stone before they move forward.
And some advice for everyone: Before hiring a monument company check to see if its registered with the Monument Builders of the Carolinas. They don't endorse companies, but registration shows the companies care enough to follow a code of ethics. Neither of the Hesters' companies is registered.