NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine — A family in Norridgewock says there are people buried in their family plot at the town cemetery. Except they aren’t members of their family. Town officials say it was their mistake, but the family doesn’t like the town’s solution.
The mistake was discovered more than a year ago at the Sunset View Cemetery.
Stephen Bishop moved the remains of his brother, who died as an infant, from a Skowhegan cemetery to the Bishop family plot in Norridgewock. That’s when he discovered two people who weren’t part of the family were buried there. In 1977 and 1978, the Bishop family bought an entire plot consisting of six gravesites. The Field family owned six sites beside them.
But in 1988, Kenneth Field wanted three more gravesites. So the town sold him a half plot, not realizing the Bishop family already owned it.
Two members of the Bishop family and two members of the Field family are buried in the exact same place.
The mix-up has gotten the attention of the Norridgewock community.
“If a mistake was made, it was not intentional,” said Norridgewock resident Brad Farrin.
“I think mistakes happen,” agreed another area resident, Helen Balgooyen. “And I think it’s unfortunate. But they should be able to resolve it without too much difficulty.”
While townspeople seem forgiving, the Bishop family has waited more than a year for the town to resolve the situation. Town leaders blame their predecessors and poor recordkeeping for the mistake, made decades ago, of selling the same half plot to two families.
But Mark Bossie said the mistake could have been avoided had the town hired a sexton to manage the cemetery.
“If they’re going to sell a lot, you need to go to the cemetery,” said Bossie. “You can’t do that in the office. You actually got to go over there and take a look at this and show the people what they’re buying, and make sure there’s no stone already there, you know.”
Bossie manages Skowhegan’s cemeteries but is called upon to bury people at Sunset View.
Portland television station WGME, CBS 13, asked Bossie if this was an isolated incident or if there are other cases like this at the cemetery.
“There’s a few others,” he said.
The town clerk is pouring through old records to see how many other plots were sold more than once.
“They’re known about. And like I say, she’s working on this,” Bossie said. “So, sooner the better.”
The town has offered to move the entire Bishop family plot, and the three remains buried there, to a separate plot in the cemetery.
“Give them a brand new lot over in the new section,” Bossie said. “No harm, no foul.”
But the Bishop family seems reluctant to do that since they were there first.