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Minister has change of heart over a gravestone he seized

Minister has change of heart over a gravestone he seized

When North Carolina Baptist minister J C Shoaf, 73, above, claimed he’d not been paid in full for a five-year-old’s gravestone, he repossessed it!

But when news broke that he had treated the gravestone of Jake Leatherman “like a car”, and people began voicing outrage, Shoaf immediately announced he would return it.

Jake died of leukemia last year. He made national news last November when dozens of NASCAR drivers and crew members attended his funeral. The boy never got a chance to go to a NASCAR race, but was a devoted fan of the sport, and idolised NASCAR star Richard Petty.

Wayne and Crystal Leatherman of Hickory said they discovered their son’s grave marker was missing from Woodlawn Memorial Garden in Hickory on October 9. In its place was a hole full of mud.

Crystal Leatherman said:

He repossessed it, like it was a car. This is my lowest point.

Wayne Leatherman said couldn’t visit the grave site now, because it’s too upsetting.

Disbelief? Anger? I don’t know how to put this into words. I had a hard time going to the grave anyway, but now there’s a hole there. It’s just wrong.

The monument was removed after a month-long dispute over money, said the Reverend Shoaf, who runs Southeastern Monument company. Shoaf, who is also a Baptist minister, said he had second thoughts about his  action.

I hated to do it. I’m not heartless and I have had a child die, so I know how it feels. But what was I to do?. I thought having [the marker] would give me some leverage. In hindsight, I should have just written it up as a bad debt.

He says he’s been in business for 56 years and this is the first time a grave marker has been repossessed.

Shoaf said he placed the marker at the grave without full payment, out of sympathy for the family’s grieving, but later regretted it.

On Tuesday, he offered an apology and said that the marker would be returned.

We waive all expenses from the Leatherman family. If there are charges to be paid to the cemetery to have this reinstalled, we will pay all expenses for doing that. … In hindsight, it was a big mistake to have the cemetery remove it, we see it now, but we do offer the family our condolence and forgiveness … we hope they forgive us. It has hurt everybody involved, and we hope they have it in their heart to forgive us for it. Our prayers are with the family, and we hope we can be friends down the road.

Shoaf had said earlier that Wayne Leatherman paid for one grave marker, then Crystal Leatherman came in and requested more than a dozen changes that added 400 pounds to the size of the marker and $2,500 in additional costs. The added costs were never paid, he said.

Wayne Leatherman said he and his wife were never told the changes would add to the cost.

Response on social media to the story has included both outrage at Shoaf and support for him.

Asked Arlene Payne of Charlotte on Facebook:

Did I read this correctly? How can anyone have the guts to repossess a grave stone? A CHILD’S gravestone?

Joanie Scarbrough Slusser of Dallas, NC, asked on Facebook:

What did it solve? File a judgment, take it to court. But to rip the headstone away is terrible business.

Among those supporting Shoaf was Steven Hall, who wrote:

That’s the problem with so many people. Somehow, they developed the notion that things in life are free. Funeral homes are not a charity, it’s a business. Emphasize the word business. Death is unavoidable, shocking, sad and as painful as it may be, it is no one else’s responsible to pay for your plot, funeral or headstone.

7 responses to “Minister has change of heart over a gravestone he seized”

  1. gert says:

    Thats what the clerics are all about . Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, Muslim … you name the cult … no matter its all about money and power. Thats it. Simple.

  2. L.Long says:

    As a BUSINESS (hope he pays the damn taxes) I can be sympathetic as so many think they should get everything for free. But as a business person, i can see it was a dumb move on his part (as negative advertising). As a xtian & a preacher he has shown how hypocritical his religion is and that his true gawd is money!!

  3. Broga says:

    Shoaf looks the way he behaves: Christian sicko.

  4. Broga says:

    There are better places than a cemetery for our mortal remains. My three dogs have all gone under a habitat pile with heavy stones over the burial hole to make sure a fox doesn’t eat them. Although that might be a good disposal – absorbed into another life. I think vultures have been doing great work in that respect in India.

    I fancy my ashes being dumped in the sea off some rocks where we have spent many happy hours. Not that any of it matters but it seems better than being consigned to damp ground, waiting for the worms, and surrounded by dead Christians.

  5. barriejohn says:

    How come he’s been in business for 56 years if this is how he operates? First of all, there seems to have been no proper communication with his customers, and in the second place, how could he think that “repossessing” a gravestone was appropriate? What did he intend to do with it? The mind boggles at his ineptitude and stupidity. What an arse!

  6. 1859 says:

    @Broga: I buried my mother’s ashes in a deep hole in the back garden of her house. She loved her garden and would sit reading for hours under a willow tree on a bench in the shade. Eventually I concealed the actual spot very carefully and sold the house.

  7. Vanity Unfair says:

    Short of advertising it in the local paper (for sale: large gravestone: would suit five-year-old called Jake Leatherman) there is little the pastor could do to recoup his loss. He seems to have created a monopoly (very un-American) in the death business, supplying the grave, burial and stone.
    The father arranged and paid for the funeral then the mother went along and changed the arrangements, including an extra 2.5 cu.ft. of stone-work (est. see https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/density-solids-d_1265.html) and did not expect to be charged for it. Grief is a terrible thing but surely something must have been said.

    To Broga:
    Sky burials do seem like a good idea but the practice is in danger. See this 2015 report:
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/biodiversity/archive/2015/05/28/india-vultures-continue-to-die-from-diclofenac-and-a-new-veterinary-drug.aspx