Mistake at gravesite upsets East Bay family

August 9, 2013 9:16:55 PM PDT
Losing a loved one is difficult enough, but on top of grief there are funeral arrangements to be made. One Oakland woman tried to spare her family that extra burden, but something went wrong. So the family turned to 7 On Your Side for some help.

This story shows how difficult it can be to conduct business while mourning a loved one. In this case, a routine clerical error caused a big mistake on a woman's gravestone and brought months of anguish for her family.

"My grandma, Margie Jean Addison, she was the greatest woman I've ever known," said Nicholas Callahan of Oakland. He won't soon forget how his grandmother suffered with cancer. He said, "I watched her cry going through chemo and saying she didn't want to live."

Margie Addison knew she was dying, but her concerns were not just for herself.

"She planned her funeral," said Lorraine Bailes, Margie's sister.

Bailes says Margie arranged her own memorial and burial next to her son at Rolling Hills Memorial Park.

"She didn't want any of us to worry about the funeral so that's why she did what she did," said Brian Callahan, Margie's son.

Brian says his mother's plans unfolded exactly as she wished except for one mistake, one horrifying mistake.

"Addison, Addison, Addison. Her name is Addison," said Brian.

When the family visited her grave, there it was. The wrong name inscribed on her tombstone.

"Her name is Margie Jean Addison, but it says Margie Allison. It's two L's instead of two D's," said Nicholas.

"It's very disheartening. It doesn't represent my sister. It's like that's not even her there," said Bailes.

Bailes demanded Rolling Hills order a new name plate with the correct name. However she says Rolling Hills required the family to pay half the cost, about $200.

"'And if you won't want to pay half, it'll just have to stay wrong.' And I told him, 'I don't think so,'" said Bailes.

Bailes insisted it was not the family's fault so they shouldn't have to pay. Rolling Hill said the family had signed off on the order. Bailes contacted 7 On Your Side and we spoke with Rolling Hills manager John Banas.

"She didn't catch it, we didn't catch it and it was ordered that way," said Banas.

Banas showed us the order form for that name plate. It has Margie's name spelled wrong in seven places. It also shows Lorraine had signed off at the bottom, but in her grief, Bailes says she never noticed any mistake.

However, after we got involved, Banas looked into the case. He said it was his counselors who filled out the forms and misspelled the name. So Rolling Hills took responsibility and ordered a brand new scroll free of charge.

"The responsibility resides a little more on our shoulders than it does with the family's who may at a certain time not be paying attention entirely because of the situation that they're in," said Banas.

The cemetery just installed the new scroll now it says it's Margie Addison resting here.

"Once again thanks 7 On Your Side," said Brian.

"I'm sure my sister's happy too. She's probably giving me the thumbs up now saying, 'That's the way to go sis,'" said Bailes.

We'd like to thank Rolling Hills for coming through with that bronze scroll free of charge. The Rolling Hills manager says this case underscores the importance of planning ahead and reviewing documents before signing off, even during a time of grief.

When you're in one of those situations, maybe it's a good idea to bring a friend along or someone not quite as invested as you are.


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