Graveyard grievance claimed in lawsuit

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When Agnes Zimmick's casket didn't fit into the plot she had purchased more than 60 years before, graveyard workers in St. Stanislaus' cemetery hopped on her casket, walked on top of it and poked it with poles, Ms. Zimmick's family alleges in a lawsuit filed Monday.

A cemetery executive said that statement is "unfounded."

The story stretches back to Dec. 11, 1945, when Ms. Zimmick purchased an 11-foot by 8-foot plot in the Catholic cemetery for $110, according to documents attached to the lawsuit by Richard Sandow, the attorney representing Ms. Zimmick's son, granddaughter and great-granddaughter.

Mr. Sandow said Ms. Zimmick's family buried her on Dec. 1, 2009, three days after she died. Following the ceremony, Ms. Zimmick's granddaughter, Lisa Carey, took her daughter, Shannon Soxman, to visit the graves of other family members buried in the cemetery, Mr. Sandow said.

It was then that the two watched as graveyard workers "jumped up and down on the casket, apparently to force the casket into a gravesite which was not large enough for the casket ... repeatedly walked along the top of the casket ... [and] also repeatedly struck said casket with poles," Mr. Sandow wrote in a civil complaint filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

Annabelle McGannon, executive director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said Monday night that she had not read the complaint filed in court but did know that the family complained to the cemetery several months ago.

"We take the complaints very seriously," she said. "It was thoroughly investigated at the time we first learned of the complaint by the family."

Ms. McGannon said the investigation showed that many of the family's allegations were "incorrect" or "unfounded," but she declined to name which parts because the case has not been closed.

Ms. Zimmick's son, Theodore Zimmick, Ms. Carey and Ms. Soxman are now seeking a jury trial and at least $25,000 each from the cemeteries association and from the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is also named in the lawsuit. A spokesman for the diocese had no comment.


Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1438.


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