Husband denied burial beside wife

KEN STARK HAS been denied the chance to buy the plot next to his wife’s grave at the Lowood General Cemetery due to council policy.
KEN STARK HAS been denied the chance to buy the plot next to his wife’s grave at the Lowood General Cemetery due to council policy. Sarah Fleming

AFTER the heartache of losing his wife of more than 40 years to brain tumours early this month, Ken Stark never expected to be told he could not reserve the grave beside her.

Mr Stark’s wife Jennifer was laid to rest just one week ago in Lowood General Cemetery, where most of his and Jennifer’s family are also buried.

“It was Jenny’s dying wish to be buried near her parents, so I went to the funeral director and told him I wanted to purchase the plot beside hers,” he said.

“I was told it was against council policy to reserve any plots, so I rang Somerset Regional Council and was told that I couldn’t purchase the plot or reserve it.

“The person I spoke to said the best they could do was pencil my name in the surrounding plots around Jennifer, but there was no guarantee that the plots would not be used in the meantime.

“If the cemetery was full I could understand it, but most of it is vacant ground.”

Mr Stark said he just wanted to be reassured his final resting place would be next to his beloved wife.

“I don’t think it’s asking too much to be allowed to make sure I am buried beside her,” he said.

“I am not the sort of person that will back down easily and I just think about the little old lady whose husband has passed away and she can’t purchase a plot next to his for herself.

“I just think about what it would be like if someone else was to be buried there.”

Jennifer and Ken Stark were together 43 years, and knew each other since they were children.

“Last November, my wife was diagnosed with brain tumours and she was at the PA in Brisbane for treatment,” he said.

“After a few months, they said there was nothing more to do and to take her home and keep her comfortable.

“I cared for her both in the hospital and at home until she passed and after all that for this heartless council to say I can’t be guaranteed a place to be buried beside her, is just too much.

“They did say that I can be buried in the same grave on top of hers, but there is no way I would do that.

“My wife deserves more respect and dignity than that and if that is the policy, then something needs to be changed.”

Somerset Regional Council CEO, Robert Bain, said council policy didn’t allow the reservation of plots.

“We haven’t done this for a number of years, and this matter has been discussed as far back as 2002,” he said.

“Since 2009 we have not been taking reservations.

“Mr Stark was offered the option of a double interment and he chose not to accept that option.”

Mr Bain said council would be working in a different area of the cemetery, meaning the plot requested by Mr Stark would be vacant for some time, but there was still no guarantee he would be able to purchase the plot in the future.

“Council has this practice of no reservations in council cemeteries because we have had situations in the past where people have made reservations and changed their minds,” he said.

“In a situation where the person has decided not to take up the plot, sometimes the next of kin may want the plot and there have been disputes.”

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