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Friday, August 19, 2005

To: The owners of cemetery plots at the Garden of Memories and Memorial Park Cemeteries, Sikeston.

Surveying charges for opening and closing a grave at the above named cemeteries owned by Mr. Mike Graham and Associates of Houston, Texas, and comparing them to surrounding cemeteries yield some interesting results.

The charge in Sikeston's Memorial Park and the Garden of Memories is $495 Monday thru Friday; $745 on Saturday until noon; and a whopping $990 if one is buried Saturday afternoon and on Sunday. Ten years ago the cost to bury someone at the Garden of Memories was $275 and Memorial Park was $300 every day of the week. The closer the weekend gets, the more expensive it is to be buried! Most bereaved families would prefer to have their loved ones buried on the weekend so out-of-town family and friends could more easily attend.

It is noteworthy that neighboring cemeteries have the following charges for the exact same service: Charleston IOOF and Odd-fellows Cemetery, $200 daily; Charleston Oak Grove, $265 daily; Matthews Cemetery, $250 daily; Essex Cemetery, $250 daily; Dexter Cemetery, $250 daily and Old Morley Cemetery, $250 daily. The extent to which some of the above mentioned cemeteries may or may not be subsidized by local entities is unknown and could not be ascertained.

To be fair, the charge in Memorial Park Cemetery, Cape Girardeau, for burials on Monday thru Friday is $625, Saturday, $800, and Sunday, $900. Here, it is important to remember that Cape's Memorial Park is wonderfully maintained with trimmed grass and tall trees. There are no sunken graves or markers that cannot be found due to high weeds and overgrown grass. The condition of Sikeston's Memorial Park and the Garden of Memories fades to distant gray in comparison to that beautiful cemetery. So, why is it that Sikestonians must pay more for a Saturday afternoon and Sunday burial than Cape Memorial Park and nearly four times more than surrounding cemeteries?

Now, the same amount of dirt would be moved and/or covered and the same amount of man-hours would be required no matter where one is buried. With the exception of the beautifully maintained Cape Memorial Park there is, shall we say, a "grave" difference if one happens to be buried in one of the Graham--owned cemeteries in Sikeston no matter what the day of the week.

Placing a finer point on the matter for Sikestonians, the burial cost nearly doubles Monday through Friday. Burial costs nearly triple on Saturday morning. And on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, the cost nearly quadruples to four times as much as neighboring cemeteries excepting Cape's Memorial Park. Of course, Mr. Graham owns Sikeston's Memorial Park and Garden of Memories cemeteries and he may charge whatever the market forces will bear. It is his right to make that business decision.

Putting it more bluntly, how many Sikeston businessmen could stay in business if any one of them charged four times more for goods and services than those in Charleston, Matthews, Essex, Morley and Dexter every Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday? Further, how many businessmen could compete with surrounding towns charging nearly double prices Monday through Friday?

Some of Mr. Graham's business practices have caught the attention of the Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. His office released the following press release dated may 25, 2005:

"Attorney General Phill Kline filed suit this week against Mike Graham and Associates, LLC, of Houston, Texas, alleging violations of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act and the Cemetery Corporation Act. Mike Graham and Associates owns and manages both the Lawrence Memorial Park Cemetery and Topeka's West Lawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery."

"In suits filed in Douglas and Shawnee County this week, Attorney General Kline asked for, and was granted, an emergency order which dissolved the Lawrence Memorial Park Cemetery Corporation, declared the cemetery to be financially abandoned and transferred the title of the cemetery to the City of Lawrence. An emergency order was not sought in the Shawnee County case at this time."

"The Douglas County lawsuit alleges numerous unconscionable acts and practices including the failure to properly maintain records of internments, failure to maintain records of the sales of burial plots and failure to honor contractual guarantees concerning the proper care and maintenance of graves and the cemetery grounds. The lawsuit alleges that Mike Graham and Associates refused to submit to an audit, failed to file required annual reports and refused to establish a merchandise trust fund as required by law."

The following Website is a also a good resources: www.ksag.org and click "enter the press room" at the bottom of the same page.

Respectfully seeking your support for Sikeston's once-upon-a-time beautiful cemeteries,

Buck Smith