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Cemetery asks judge for approval after moving burial plots

Local News

BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) The operators of St. Matthew’s Cemetery in West Seneca are asking State Supreme Court Justice Dennis Ward for approval of the emergency disinterment of 200 burial plots which took place suddenly in April due to concerns over eroding soil.

But when they showed up in court Thursday, they were met by opposition from attorneys representing more than seventy families who may eventually file civil claims against the Forest Lawn Cemetery/Crematory Group.

“They should have allowed our clients to have a say in this. They didn’t,” said  Barry Covert, and attorney representing about 70 clients whose loved ones’ bodies were suddenly moved to a different section of St. Matthews Cemetery in West Seneca in April. “Now they’re asking for permission, after they’ve already violated the state statute, they’re asking for the court to give some stamp of forgiveness which really doesn’t exist.”

“It’s a horrible situation,” said Brenda Fisher, who showed up the day before Easter to visit her son’s burial plot. “That was the day that made two years that he died. I went up to visit him and there was a fence up there and the iron wall was up there. They were trying to re-enforce Cayuga Creek and the gentleman told us we could come back at 3:30, but we couldn’t, and we were back a couple days later and that whole area was uplifted. They had uplifted that whole area.”

The president of Forest Lawn Cemetery/Crematory Group, Joseph Dispenza, is defending the decision as prudent action in light of unexpected soil erosion. “The circumstances that presented themselves on Easter Sunday were unforeseen, impossible to predict and ever-evolving, and there was one thing to do and protest the dead is what I do and have done for thirty years. I know I did the right thing by putting the beloved dead in a safe place.”

State Supreme Court Justice Dennis Ward indicated in court that he was contacted by a representative of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, which wants to give input on this request. All parties are due back in court on July 29 at 2 p.m. 

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