By ROBERT JORDAN
Questions about the actual ownership of Harnett Devotional Gardens Cemetery, who is financially responsible for it, and how to hold responsible parties accountable remain at the center of the vast unknown at 5665 Fairground Road in Dunn.
The Devotional Gardens, once a beautifully landscaped and perpetually maintained development for the final resting place of loved ones, has become a weed-infested and poorly maintained eyesore.
As grave owners at the cemetery grow increasingly concerned, most find that corporate officials are hiding behind a veil of incorporation and the officials who should be able to help families are people. named policies that appear to have little or no enforcement power.
Who owns and operates the cemetery?
According to the Harnett County Deeds Records, the real estate (buildings and land) of the Harnett Devotional Gardens is deeded to Primus Holdings Inc., of 1320 Stapleton Drive, Garner. This property was granted to Primus Holdings Inc. by Garden Associates LLC for the purchase price of $244,000 on December 20, 2019. The president of Primus Holdings Inc. is Lenual S. Primus, of the same address Garner, according to the NC Office of the Secretary of State.
Primus Holdings Inc. is listed as an active business whose file is not current with the Secretary of State.
A purported business name certificate was filed with the Harnett County Deeds Registry Office on January 27, 2022. In it, the assumed name of Harnett Devotional Gardens indicated the real name of the person or entity carrying on business under the alias Faithful Heritage Holdings Inc. of 2615 NE 17th Terrace, Gainesville, Florida. This certificate was signed by Ruth Thornquest, Chief Operating Officer of Faithful Heritage Holdings.
Faithful Heritage Holdings Inc. is a North Carolina corporation headquartered at 160 Mine Lake Court, Suite 200, Raleigh. The company’s principal office is located at 2615 NE 17th Terrace, Gainesville, Florida. The company’s president is listed as Quentin Graciano, of Gainesville. Faithful Heritage Holdings’ status with the North Carolina Secretary of State is listed as current and active.
The Daily Record made numerous attempts to speak with Primus, Graciano and Thornquest. None of these three people returned any calls or emails.
Who can be contacted to take action?
Domini Ennis Pearce of Dunn contacted The Daily Record to report his attendance at the North Carolina Cemetery Commission’s July 2022 meeting. After hearing her concerns, she explained that commission members told her she would likely be better served if she contacted the North Carolina attorney general’s office. Pearce did just that.
In her written complaint to the Attorney General, Pierce states that she paid $2,114.57 for a memorial marker purchased as a pre-need item. She paid a deposit of $215.57 to then-owner of the cemetery, Lenual S. Primus, on April 20, 2017. She then made monthly installments of $52.75 to Harnett Devotional Gardens and received receipts from the cemetery office after each payment. As of August 2020, Pearce says she has finished paying for the marker and as of July 20, 2022, no memorial marker has been installed.
Pearce states in her complaint that she met with the NC Cemetery Commission in three separate meetings without any assistance from the commission. She was interviewed by phone with an agent from the NC State Bureau of Investigation.
“I believe there is fraudulent activity in this situation and I am certain that I am not the only person negatively affected (sic) by this situation,” Pearce wrote in his complaint.
Mike Barefoot of Garner also filed a complaint with the Attorney General. He complains that he paid Harnett Devotional Gardens $1,110.73 after the cemetery raised the price of a memorial marker for his father’s grave from an original quote of almost $400. The original purchase date was March 14, 2022. The marker has not yet been installed, he wrote in his complaint. Barefoot also complains of unrepaired “sinkholes” and numerous “broken promises” by the cemetery office to remedy the problems. To remedy his complaint, he said, “I would like my father’s grave properly filled in, the marker attached and the grounds properly maintained.”
A family’s decision
Deborah Cousins, 70, of Erwin lost her husband, Ezekiel, on May 19. A generous friend gifted Cousins with three plots at Harnett Devotional Gardens, and her husband was laid to rest May 28.
“A friend of my husband called me and offered to give me three plots because she wasn’t going to use them. We went to the cemetery office to fill out the paperwork for the transfer and it was a big mess,” Cousins said.
She went on to explain that no one at the cemetery office knew how to complete the transfer paperwork. She says someone had to travel from Florida to fill out the proper forms.
Asked about the state of the ground in May before her husband’s burial, Cousins said: ‘All I know is that there were potholes in the road. As for the gardens, I had never been there before so I didn’t know what to look for. The little area he was going to go to…it was badly maintained.
She went on to say, “I didn’t know anything about how cemeteries are maintained. I knew they were supposed to maintain the cemeteries, but I didn’t see anyone working there.
“When I read that families had to go out there to cut their loved ones’ grass and weed and fill in the holes and all that, I freaked out. I knew I couldn’t do all that. I I’m 70,” she said. “When I go and my daughter goes, who’s going to do it for us?
“I wanted my husband to rest where they are going to maintain the cemetery. When I read in the paper and heard all the complaints, none of it was ever leaked to me, otherwise I never would have put it there in the first place.
Cousins made the decision to exhume her husband’s remains and move them to Resthaven Cemetery, a facility owned and maintained by the City of Dunn. She said she was shocked to learn of the cost differences between the two cemeteries. Harnett Devotional Gardens charged Cousins $1,795 to open the grave for her husband’s burial in May. On Wednesday, they charged her $2,500 to reopen the grave for her husband’s exhumation.
Conversely, the town of Dunn charged her $700 to open the grave in Resthaven so her husband could be moved.
“When I went to pay them,” Cousins said, “I wanted to know what services they were going to provide for $2,500. What was it going to include? then transfer it to the other cemetery. I said, ‘No Ma’am. Mr. Dafford’s staff does it.’
The cousins explained that the cemetery office staff then called the offices in Florida. After the phone call, the staff explained that sometimes there were not enough funeral home staff to handle the exhumation and that the cemetery staff had to help.
“I asked them why they charged me $1,795 in May and two months later it was $2,500. They told me that all cemeteries charge the same price,” she said. “They only charged me $700 at Resthaven for the same service.”
“They’re just greedy for money and that’s my story. People are grieving and you are trying to rob them,” Cousins pointed out.
In the end, all that anxiety cost Cousins over $7,000 to fulfill her desire for her husband’s remains to rest in a place of perpetual care.
The saga continues. Follow mydailyrecord.com for more updates on Harnett Devotional Gardens.
Robert Jordan can be reached at [email protected] or 910-230-2037.