Two weeks ago, the family of Janice Kennedy, who was buried in Green Hill in March 2020, launched a litany of complaints against Green Hill Cemetery on social media and contacted Tulsa ABC affiliate KTUL, who aired the family’s grievances, including assertions that Green Hill employees had “broken” the headstone for Kennedy’s grave, and had driven a backhoe over the gravesite multiple times, lifting the headstone out of the ground.
Justin Williams, Kennedy’s grandson said, “The headstone was delivered, one of their employees ran over it and busted it they put it in the ground anyway hoping we wouldn’t notice,”
Brenda Jetton, Kennedy’s daughter, told KTUL, “It just was heartbreaking they had run over it with a backhoe, crushed all the decorations into the mud,”
Sapulpa Times reached out to the owner of Green Hill, Tom Dugan, to obtain his response to the family’s allegations.
“They didn’t purchase a marker from us, they purchased it from a third party,” Dugan said. “When it was delivered, the company didn’t let us know it was being delivered, nor did the delivery company or delivery driver let us know he had dropped it off.”
Dugan says the driver left the headstone sitting in a roadway, where it was later found damaged. “It looks like someone ran over it,” he said.
Dugan said that the family blamed the cemetery for the damage and Green Hill had someone try to repair the headstone. “We wouldn’t replace it because it wasn’t our fault, and they have been unhappy with us ever since.”
Green Hill says driving heavy equipment over the markers is an unfortunate reality of the business that’s made even worse during rainy weather. “The second part of that is that they are buried out there in a garden that stays very wet when it rains.” Dugan said. “We had two burials out there within a couple of days of each other right by where their loved one is buried. You can’t drive a backhoe out there to dig a grave without driving over other graves…unless you have a helicopter to drop you in.”
Dugan said they take necessary precautions to avoid driving over markers where possible: “We will even pick them [markers] up and move them out of the way, and that makes some people mad because they can’t understand why you moved it. I tell then if we don’t move it we drive over it.”
The frustrated cemetery owner told the news crews, “I don’t even understand why this is newsworthy. It is muddy, it has been extremely wet, and when you take a piece of heavy equipment and you drive it back and forth over the same area several times, it creates a muck. There is no good way to clean it up until it dries out.” He explained to reporters that “We do this every year. This is the same story you ran last year.” Dugan stated that in the spring Green Hill will obtain fresh dirt and then re-sod the area as they do every year.
According to Dugan, when the City of Sapulpa expanded the South Heights cemetery to the east of this garden, a drainage issue developed due to the fact that the elevation of the City annex is almost a foot higher than the Green Hill land.
The Sapulpa Times spoke to Steve Hardt, Sapulpa Public Works Director about the elevation issue. He stated that according to contour maps, the East Garden at Green Hill Cemetery was not below the lowest elevation of the South Heights East Annex.