Almost two years after her stepfather’s death, Virginia Ratcliffe remains troubled. She mourns the passing of the man, Edmund Donald Hand, M.D., but there’s another thing that’s still bothering her — the plaque at his grave site.
Hand, a long-time Napa psychiatrist who also worked at Napa State Hospital, died on April 27, 2011. Soon afterward, Hand’s remains were laid to rest at Napa Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary at the same grave site of Ratcliffe’s mother, Leah Ratcliffe Hand.
Ratcliffe said she paid to have a small metal plaque inscribed with Hand’s death date. To her dismay, the plaque was never added to the marker.
“This is not right,” Ratcliffe said, her voice breaking. “My step-father does not deserve to be treated this way.”
The plaque is just one of the obstacles the cemetery property has faced in recent years when the ownership of the park remained uncertain.
Robert Pierce, one of the park’s former owners, died in 2010. Liens for unpaid taxes had been filed against Pierce Carter LLC, the corporation that owned the property. The cemetery’s license was suspended later because of missing trust reports that detail the funds people have pre-paid for funeral services.
According to the Department of Consumer Affairs, technically the cemetery was considered abandoned. The Department of Consumer Affairs reported that up to $1.02 million was missing from the cemetery trust fund, trust funds were improperly invested and the park was not in compliance with administering the trust fund.
In 2010, Buck Kamphausen, who owns mortuaries, cemeteries and funeral homes throughout the Bay Area and California, stepped forward hoping to purchase the 14.5-acre cemetery, mortuary, mausoleum and chapel on Highway 221 south of Kennedy Park in Napa. He saw the property’s potential, he said, adding there was plenty of room for more burials.
Even though he did not own the park, Kamphausen took over cemetery operations, paying for upkeep and all other services. He estimated he’s spent about $50,000 a year at Napa Valley Memorial Park since 2010.
“We have taken care of every (funeral) contract” at the cemetery, Kamphausen said in a September interview. “Anybody with a contract will be taken care of.”
It took more than two years, but in October Kamphausen was able to complete his purchase of the cemetery. The businessman said he paid $195,000 for the cemetery and park.
Now that the purchase is final, Kamphausen said he plans to spend between $100,000 and $200,000 in improvements to the cemetery and park including new paint, interior work, landscaping, road repair, more visitation hours and other efforts.
“We’re getting reorganized,” he said on Tuesday. “We’re very pleased to be there. We think it will be a real asset to the community.”
Ratcliffe just wants her plaque installed. It’s “upsetting,” Ratcliffe said. “They said everything would be taken care of. A year and eight months later and it’s still not there. They have no respect for the dead.”
Upon hearing of Hand’s missing plaque, Kamphausen said the original paperwork had been lost but he vowed to order and install a replacement plaque. “I will expedite it,” he said.
But Kamphausen’s turnaround may not be enough for Ratcliffe. Even though Ratcliffe’s father, mother and aunt are buried at the park, she said she won’t be buried there.