Family unable to bury relative due to cemetery district terminations

Photos and story by Catherine Stachowiak

Kay Ferry has a history in Kern Valley, coming from a longtime, well known family. Imagine Ferry’s frustration when it came time to bury her mother, Merilyn Hilsabeck June 10, and she and her three brothers Butch, Perry, and Michael Hilsabeck ended up finding out that the Kern River Valley Cemetery District was not doing burials because the board of trustees fired all the district’s employees at once.

After being inconvenienced by the expense of a needless trip to California, Ferry and her husband traveled back to Arizona, not knowing when she and her family could arrange the funeral.

Ferry told the Kern Valley Sun she just wanted to honor her mother’s wishes.  She said, “Her parents are already up there. My father is already buried there. And her sister is already buried there. My dad and my mom prepaid for everything.  And seven years ago she retired in Yuma Arizona where I live. And she passed there.  And when she passed she was cremated in Arizona. And my husband and I came from Yuma, Arizona, yesterday.  We brought her remains. And we had to leave her with Rob at the Lake Isabella Mortuary. And so then we thought that she was going to be able to be interned today. And we found out that there wasn’t anybody to do that, nobody to dig the grave, nobody to do anything. So we had to leave her.”

The couple returned to their home in Yuma the next afternoon. Ferry said, “I have Pastor Ron Barker, where she went to church (and) knows the situation; he is going to be my eyes and ears and keep checking on when she could be buried with my dad.  No one has any idea when she could be buried. Rob said, that we were the first ones to need to have someone buried there since all this has been going on with the board.”

Ferry said through tears, “This is causing a hardship. This is not right, that we can’t bury her. I feel it’s very unsettling, but nothing is finalized.” 

Ferry said that her mother passed May 14, but the family couldn’t get away to bring her remains to the Kern Valley until they received the death certificate and paperwork had to be filed.  The family was thinking of having her church family come to hold a service, and there was no one to dig the grave, or have the remains of her mother interned.

“It’s unfortunate, all the way around. But when it’s personal and you’re trying to do the right thing by your mother, and there she sits,” she said, crying once again.  

Norman and Ethel Halverson were members of Lake Isabella, moving to Kern Valley, from Los Angeles, in 1969.  They’re also buried at the same cemetery. “My father Harold Hilsabeck and also my mom’s sister Wannie Halverson are buried at the cemetery. They’ve all lived here since 1969,” Ferry said.

She said the family was always active in the community.  Everything was already prearranged, pre-paid, the family was trying to honor the wishes of their relative and was stalled.  And now they’ll have to make a separate trip out here. “It’s unfortunate, I just hope that they get everything straightened out,” said Ferry.

The family was hoping another cemetery would come and conduct the internment but it never materialized.