MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Managers of New Park Cemetery are responding Friday after families found their loved ones’ graves in shambles, with headstones tossed around and tire marks all over graves.

The conditions at the cemetery in the Boxtown area had families in tears Thursday. A manager on Friday refused an on-camera interview, but explained the tire marks families saw on the graves.

“There has been so much rain our ground got saturated,” New Park Cemetery Assistant Manager Julie Levy said. “When they went to dig a new grave, the backhoe they were using sunk. They had to bring in machinery to pull the backhoe out, and it rutted up that area.”  

Levy said it happened about two weeks ago, but they had to wait to make repairs since the ground was saturated.

She says the equipment knocked over some flowers and shifted some headstones, but they were able to fix everything.

Photo by Brooke Billions, WREG

Mary Bracy, who has family buried at New Park and has been pushing to get things improved, thinks it’s due to procrastination.

“It has been raining and I understand, as far as the heavy equipment would sink. But after two weeks or three weeks, something could have been done within that time frame,” she said.

Conditions seemed to be better when our cameras went back Friday. The problems were confined to the Sewanee Road cemetery, not the New Park location on Horn Lake Road.

New Park says both cemeteries get attention, but there are a lot of new graves that have been dug at the Sewanee site.

The assistant manager says it’s highly unusual to have a backhoe sink, but there are so many graves from COVID, they have had three times the amount of funerals.

She says the casket holders families saw on the property are burial vaults stored for upcoming funerals, and the open hole had been dug to put in a casket for a funeral.

Bracy is giving New Park the benefit of the doubt, but is also watching.

Cemetery managers say they don’t believe any headstones were damaged, but they will replace any that were.