SHAWNEE, Okla. (KFOR) – Your final resting place is supposed to be a sacred haven for family looking to pay final respects, but dozens of families in Shawnee haven’t been able to see their loved ones for years, and the future of a cemetery staple is uncertain.
Claud Dockrey Sr. was a man of the land.
After decades of work on his Pott. County farm, family says he had one request before he passed.
“He said he’d dug in the soil all his life, he wasn’t gonna be buried in the soil,” explained his granddaughter, Sherill Ball.
Luckily, a couple of decades before his death, a mausoleum had been erected at the Fairview Cemetery in Shawnee.
Claud was the first in his family to be interred, but not the last. Over the decades 11 Dockrey family members have been laid to rest inside.
But the 11th member, who passed earlier this month, did not end up where she had planned.
“When we got [to the cemetery], we had the deeds, which one she was to be in,” said Sherill. “[Staff] went inside, came outside, said well we can’t use that spot.”
Sherill says the reason given was that the area around her cousin’s crypt is crumbling and buckling, with no plans for repair.
While the Fairview Mausoleum was likely a palace in its heyday, the structure today is anything but.
The outside has clearly been aged by years of neglect. The inside is locked to the public for safety.
Busted out windows though give a peak to the mess inside, the resting place of 120 souls.
“I haven’t been able to go in for some time,” said Sherill. “I have asthma and the mold is so bad inside that it’s not really fit for people to go in and be safe.”
How this mess came to be is complicated. While the Fairview Cemetery is city owned and maintained, the mausoleum in the middle is privately owned.
Sherill tells News 4, the mausoleum had been run by local married couple for some time, under the name of The Fairview Mausoleum Association.
But with the couple’s passing, city officials say the ownership passed to their two out of state sons.
Funding has since dried up, and the building has withered away.
The association has been trying to pass ownership to the city for some time, a proposition that was discussed by commissioners last April.
“We can’t maintain something we don’t own, and [The Fairview Mausoleum Association] doesn’t have the want to, or resources, abilities to maintain it,” said Shawnee Utilities Director, Bradley Schmidt, on April 5th. “So that thing has sat for the last 8 years and just slowly worsened.”
According to city studies done several years back, it would take at least $600,000 to repair.
Commissioners unanimously voted to accept ownership during the April meeting.
But less than a year later, just earlier this month, city commissioners did a 180.
Following an executive session discussing the acquisition, commissioners voted to revoke their acceptance of the building.
Shawnee City Manager, Andrea Weckmueller-Behringer, tells News 4 the decision was due to the Fairview Mausoleum Association not holding up their end of the bargain.
“We were approached by the mausoleum trust, we as in the city, saying there are $30-thousand left for maintenance, and we would be happy to turn over the records if you accept the building,” she explained. “Since then, neither the funds were turned over, nor any of the records.”
Instead, Andrea tells News 4 the association came with a new request. They asked the city to indemnify the association, and accept full liability for the building.
Without any records, the city says they have no idea what they would be agreeing to take on.
“Above and beyond knowing that the building has to be maintained, and the crypts have to be maintained, there could be other conditions that we would’ve been entered into taking on — that’s like signing a blank contract” Andrea said. “That is just not doable from the city’s perspective.”
So it’s back to negotiations for the city and the association.
But families like the Dockreys still own unfilled crypts, and Claud Sr’s daughter is now 84 years old.
“My aunt’s on hospice,” said Sherill. “We could lose her at anytime.”
They all must now wait, hoping a resolution hasn’t crumbled completely.
“It is much less about the building,” added Andrea. “It’s about doing right by those people who thought they had a final resting place, and now that is in jeopardy.”
Newer studies on the mausoleum have found restoration will cost significantly more than previous estimates.
News 4 has reached out to the Fairview Mausoleum Association multiple times for comment, but have not heard back.