From California, Amber Edwards waited Wednesday to hear that an 18-month fight to have the stone replaced properly on her mother’s final resting place was finished.

And finally it was done.

“It looks beautiful,” said Edwards in a text after a picture was texted to her.

Edwards’ mother, Geri “Nicki” Hornback, died on Aug. 21, 2010. Her ashes were buried on the plot of her mother, Betty Jane Edwards. Abel Vault & Monument in Pekin placed the headstone next to the grandmother’s stone with the approval of Mt. Hope Cemetery President and Caretaker Jack Moser, Abel confirmed Wednesday. And the family started to grieve the loss.

But in late 2016, Amber Edwards received some very upsetting news — the tombstone on her mother’s grave in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Tremont was missing. A cousin noticed it when the family was there to bury another family member.

“My cousin sent us a text message with a picture that said, ‘Someone stole your mom’s headstone,’” said Edwards, now of California. “So my sister and I kind of did the, ‘Oh my gosh, who would steal someone’s headstone?”

 

The search

Amber Edwards called Abel Vault & Monument to inquire about the headstone and she was referred to Moser, who told Edwards that the stone had been placed partially on another plot and the owner wanted it removed. Moser, without contacting the family, removed the stone and placed it in a shed.

Moser said the stone was in the shed not more than one year, but when told of Edward’s cousin’s call and photo in early 2016, Moser said he wasn’t sure how long it had been there. He said it had probably been moved from the grave for six months before anyone realized it. Because Edwards lives in California, she does not make it back to visit.

Edwards said a cemetery official asked her for the date of inurnment and for documents.

“Our last concern is when we spoke yesterday you were asking me about who buried (mom) and how my mom’s ashes were buried, paperwork that needed to be submitted on your part within 10 days, which were not submitted,” said Edwards in an email to Jeanie Royer, cemetery treasurer in April. “We are now very concerned that with you having no knowledge or paperwork of our mom’s ashes being buried that her remains are now misplaced.

“How does this even happen? How can you tell me our mom’s headstone has been put down by her ashes if there isn’t even any knowledge or documentation of her ashes being buried?”

Edwards said Moser used a probe to locate the urn, which Edwards found to be invasive of her mom’s final rest.

According to the Illinois Consumers’ Guide to Cemetery and Final Disposition Purchases, “At the time of the interment, entombment or inurnment, the cemetery shall provide the record of the deceased’s name and date of burial to the person who has the authority to dispose of the decedent’s remains.” Edwards said the family never received that.

Also, a contract must be signed by the consumer and a cemetery representative, according to the guide. Edwards said cemetery officials had no record of her mother’s burial until she provided it to them.

 

Moser’s position

Moser said he never received the cremains and there is no record of Hornback’s burial at the cemetery. He said he believes the family buried the urn themselves. He said he marks and lays out every plot for burial and headstone placement and that he never did so for the cremains or the inurnment.

“I am the president of the (cemetery) board and I take care of all of the marking out and graves and all that stuff — I do it all,” said Moser. “I got a call from a woman in Mackinaw one day about a year or so ago and she was madder than hops (that) somebody had put a headstone on one of the lots that she had bought at the Tremont Cemetery.

“I looked into it and sure enough there was a headstone there and part of it was on her property and part of it was on somebody else’s property. So I removed that headstone. I picked it up with a tractor and I put it in our storage shed because I had no record of it. No one had ever talked to me about this. (Edwards) said she had talked to me. Well, not at that time I hadn’t. I was completely ignorant of the situation. All I knew was that somebody had put a stone where it did not belong, it was on someone else’s property and so I moved it — I took it off. And I would move it again. That’s what the whole thing was about.”

Moser said he went out with a probe and located the remains and placed the stone on the ground behind it. He did not have a base put down to support the stone.

“Now she’s all mad,” said Moser. “Abel Vault and Monument has agreed to put (a base) under it, but it will be a couple of weeks.

“But no, that’s not fast enough for her. Get somebody else to do it. We’re not going to find somebody else to do it. It’s a joke as far as I’m concerned and I don’t think she’s going to be satisfied until somebody offers her some money and that’s not going to happen.”

Edwards said it was no joking matter.

 

A final word

Moser said he is still standing his ground.

“When there’s a headstone set, the company calls me and wants me to go out and mark it out,” said Moser. “That’s the way it works. And I can tell you nobody ever called me about this particular headstone.”

Abel Vault & Monument always has Moser mark the site, Moser said, but they never called for that grave. Yet on a bill of sale dated Oct. 22, 2012, provided to the Pekin Daily Times by Edwards, it shows that the headstone was shipped to Mt. Hope Cemetery. The name on the stone is Hornback. The price for installation was $100.

So, Abel, as said by Moser, would have asked for the plot to be marked for the installation.

Would he not have gone out and marked the grave?

“I sure would have,” said Moser. “I never went out and marked it out. I’m just surmising that this gal told Abel that I OK’d it, where to put it. But I guarantee you I did not mark out that grave stone.”

Does Abel always take the word of the consumer, Moser was asked?

“Nope, he (Steve Matheney with Abel) always calls me,” said Moser.

Moser said he deals with Matheney at Abel. He said it must have been one of his assistants or a worker who worked on the installation. 

Tom Matheney said Wednesday morning that Moser was asked to mark the spot for the stone and he did mark it when the stone was first installed in 2012. Matheney said a family member said Jack approved the location on the lot next to the grandmother’s headstone.

“Jack laid it out,” said Matheney. “How else would we have known where to put it?”

Matheney said such mistakes in small cemeteries are not that uncommon because records may not be as accurate, but, “We’ve never had anything like this at Mt. Hope before. They’re one of the better ones.”

Abel Vault & Monument donated the materials and labor to install the stone Wednesday.