Harlingen Man Struggling to Find Father’s Burial Site
HARLINGEN - A Rio Grande Valley man is searching for his father’s final resting place due to poor recordkeeping at the cemetery where he’s buried.
Cristobal Martinez said all his requests for help to Ashland Memorial Park Cemetery in Harlingen have been ignored.
“My dad passed away about 60, almost 60 years ago,” he said. “He was killed by a drunk driver while walking.”
Martinez said he’s been unable to visit his father for years. He said no one seems to know where exactly he was laid to rest.
“When I went to find him, they didn’t know for sure where he was. There are no records of him buried there,” he said.
Martinez said his family couldn’t afford to pay for a service, let alone a headstone at the time of his father’s death. He said the country buried him in Roma Linda, which years later became Ashland cemetery.
“We had no money, so the county buried him… I thought there’d be a record, but when I checked they didn’t have records going back that far,” he said.
He said he just wants to be able to give his father a final gift.
“I would like to find my dad before it’s too late for me. I would like to put a headstone there, and know that he’s there,” he said. “They actually told me that I could put a headstone in any of those two unmarked graves, but I still wouldn’t know if that was my dad there or not.”
CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke with Tammy Garza of Rudy Garza’s Funeral Home. She said they received ownership of Ashland Memorial Park Cemetery in the 90s. Since then, Garza said they’ve been up to date with their recordkeeping.
She said the previous recordkeeping of Ashland is scarce.
“There are two unmarked graves right where he is supposedly buried. I thought that would be easy, but apparently not,” she said.
Garza said they are unable to dig up a plot since there is no specific information stating where Martinez’s father is buried. However, she did offer to meet with him to discuss other options.
“It doesn’t feel right knowing where he’s exactly, it could be over somebody else’s family,” he said.
Martinez said he’ll work with the staff at Rudy Garza Funeral Home to finally be able to give his father’s resting place a name.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to Jim Kennerly of the Texas Cemetery Association to find out what laws and regulations are in place for cemeteries.
He said, according to the Texas Health and Safety Code concerning burial records, the person in charge of premises on which interments are made shall keep a record of the bodies interred or otherwise disposed of on the premises.
Kennerly said the records for each decedent must include:
- The decedent’s name
- The place of death
- The date of interment or disposal
- The name and address of the funeral director and any other information required by the state registrar
- The records shall be open to official inspection at all times
Kennerly said it is state law and cemeteries must follow and keep up-to-date records.