Grave marker discovery at Dent’s Undertaking Establishment doesn’t surprise local funeral director

Grave marker discovery at Dent’s Undertaking Establishment doesn’t surprise local funeral director
The Richmond County Coroner's Office is working to match headstones with their proper graves. (Source: Lex Juarez)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFXG) - One hundred thirty-five grave markers designated for military veterans were discovered in the abandoned, historic Dent’s Undertaking Establishment last week.

“We’re going to do what we can to get these grave markers put back on these graves," Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen told FOX 54 in an interview at the time of the discovery.

Since making that announcement, the coroner’s office found more than 90 of those grave sites and are working to match the rest.

“It’s not excessive. There are a lot of funeral homes, probably, if you go to look and see they have veterans’ markers," said Kevin McNiell.

Kevin McNiell and his wife, owners of McNeill Funeral Home. have been in business for 15 years. He said families of the deceased play a factor in leaving grave stones behind.

“The funeral home orders them for them, they never come back for them, the cemetery, the cemetery charges a fee to put them down. So, maybe at that time the family could not afford to have it done, because it’s a good bit,” McNiell said.

McNiell has a veteran’s granite marker that he’s been trying to get to a family for years.

"So I'm just waiting until maybe one day they'll come back and say, 'hey, you have my father's marker and I need it.'

Dent’s funeral home ordered some of those grave markers decades before closing.

“1970, 1975, some of them up as far as 2005, I believe," Coroner Mark Bowen said in an interview last week.

We asked if the fact that Dent’s had operated for nearly a century had anything to do with why the headstones piled up.

"It seems like to me they ordered for every veteran. We always ask if the family wants a veterans marker, because some people don’t.

McNeill said he doesn’t believe the funeral home’s personnel did anything illegal. Multiple agencies are investigating what actually happened.

Richmond County coroner Mark Bowen said his office plans to deliver the markers to the cemeteries for placement on the graves in the near future. He said the grave sites that they checked on had no markers in place.

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