X Marks the Spot

My Daddy, Dick Heitzman, always said this story was true. There was no reason to doubt him, except that he was a raconteur from way back and, on reflection, it did sound more like a flight of fancy or a pile of something else. After all, at the end of the day, Mary came out with the same burial plots she had started with. Dick, however, asserted to the end that he (and Mary) had exhumed a system of graft and corruption of far-reaching consequences. The Reader will have to judge for himself.

Aunt Mary Mary Heitzman, c. 1976

Dick’s sister Mary (his immediate junior and the third of six kids), had purchased two burial plots adjoining those of their deceased parents at the Evergreen Cemetery in Gainesville, Florida. When the siblings were in town for their 50-year plus high school reunions, Aunt Mary asked Dick to help her inspect the plots. She understood one of them had a tree growing on it and it might not make a suitable gravesite—but she wanted to know for sure.

Dick took Mary to the cemetery that Friday for a look. They found Gramdma and Grandpa just where they had left them and, sure enough, there was a tree growing in the plot six feet to the left of their graves just on the other side of Baba’s headstone. No groundskeeper was available to verify the spot’s merit, however, so Mary and Dick left with the intention of carrying on their investigation another day.

Vera and Frank’s Headstone

Daddy and Aunt Mary returned the following Wednesday with an appointment to meet the elusive groundskeeper. The man pulled out his plats, puzzled over them a bit, and then revealed the startling news, “The plot’s unusable, sure, but it ain’t yours.” According to the groundskeeper, Mary’s two plots were 50 yards away on the other side of the road.

Cemetery Map

Mary’s one desire was to be laid to rest near her parents. It goes without saying she was mortified to learn that her final resting place would be so far removed from the bosom of her family. The groundskeeper helpfully suggested that Mary check with Cemetery Records.

I don’t know about yours, but in my town Cemetery Records are administered through the County. It’s conceivable that in some places City Hall has the job. At that time in Gainesville it was the Parks and Recreation Department. When Mary called Parks and Rec, the people there acted hurt, but informed her that, if they had, in fact, sold her the wrong lots, they could probably “… work something out. Come on down.”

It was nothing short of a catastrophe that Mary might be forced to repose for eternity half a football field away from her parents. The more she thought about it, the more agitated she became. Dick tried to cheer her up. He figured she could be buried in her allotted place and have a marker on Grandma and Grandpa’s grave with an arrow pointing to her. If necessary, Mary could purchase an easement across neighboring graves and plant a series of arrows showing the way.

Her well-renowned sense of humor at last surfacing, Mary came up with one better. Grandma and Grandpa’s stone would give the directions to Mary’s grave, “Twenty paces south, Two paces east, X marks the spot.”

Raised on a chicken farm that boasted the undiscovered site of a buried treasure from Spanish Galleon days, the six kids and their neighborhood chums had been weaned on pirate maps and treasure hunts. No one would have trouble finding Mary now.

In high spirits, Mary and Dick arrived at Parks and Rec to be assisted by a young clerk—the only employee (apparently) on duty. The clerk thought that the plots near the old folks were available for purchase. If Mary would sign a quitclaim deed for the two she had and pay Parks and Recreation $5.00, they would deed her the lots she wanted, together with a transfer of the perpetual care service. Dick thought that she should be suing Parks and Recs instead of paying ‘em five bucks, but Mary was anxious to trade.

While they reviewed the quitclaim deed, the clerk excused herself to search for the original plats. In retrospect, Dick figured the clerk must have been just an inefficient dupe. If she had been in on the scheme, she never would have shown anyone those plats. The other guys—the ones in charge—were only, probably, out to lunch. Their bad luck.

Before long, the clerk came back with some weathered, spoiled, almost unreadable documents. Dick was doing his best to make sense of them when he noticed that some of the plot numbers had been penciled over in red with new numbers. The plats at the Parks and Recreation Department and the plats at the cemetery didn’t match up and, this time, Mary’s lots were at the preferred location near Grandma and Grandpa. A quitclaim deed and trade were most emphatacally unnecessary. Dick’s keen eye and astute mind had saved his sister a fin.

This is how Dick figured the con worked: the crooks at Parks and Rec would sell a bloke the wrong lot, then sell him the right lot for a five dollar fee, then bury him … where? There still existed for Mary the very grave risk that she could be buried at the wrong site. How many before her had been sent to their Maker from the wrong launch pad? It was impossible to know.

Upon alerting the City’s yet uncorrupted authorities of this serious crime, the amateur sleuths hoped it would be possible to untangle the web prior to Aunt Mary’s demise. It might take years, however, and, their reunions over, Mary and Dick had to get back to their hometowns and on with their lives. They made their report to the officials and then departed with fingers crossed.

Unknown to Mary, Dick returned in disguise later that evening and parked his car across the street from Parks and Rec. There, he told us later, he kept vigil all night in case some muscle bound goon or sleazy bureaucrat might try to sneek out carrying a little tin box filled with five dollar bills.

To hear it from Dick, he and Mary had singlehandedly [sic] brought an end to an era of fraud and deception. With these two seniors on the prowl, no sinister element was safe. Not in Gainesville. Not in the Parks and Recreation Department.

GOAM Headstone

Rest in Peace, GOAM (Good Old Aunt Mary)


P.S.: For the information of interested parties, the graves for the Heitzmans and their extended family are located in Section 29, as follows: