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Mother's Heartbreak: Gravestone error tarnishes children's resting place

Gravestone mixup repaired, but what went wrong?

Few things are more difficult for a parent than outliving a child. So, when the headstone meant to commemorate a young life has a glaring mistake etched on it, the burden becomes a little harder to bear.

Amy Treece Zarkowski says she tried for months to correct a mistake on her children's headstone. Her son, Michael, and her daughter, Becky, lost their lives to a heroin addiction.

"They were just young, vibrant children who had a full life ahead of them, and heroin just got the best of them," Treece Zarkowski said.

Treece Zarkowski wanted to honor the lives of her both children, so she sold her second car to pay for a joint headstone. She purchased the marker from Clinton Grove Granite Works in 2014. Sadly, her daughter's birth date was incorrect on the stone. It stated Becky was born August 27th, when it should have said August 24th.

"It breaks my heart because they deserve better," she told Local 4's Guy Gordon when he started investigating the mixup on March 18th.

What Went Wrong?

When Local 4 went to Clinton Grove Granite Works looking for answers, an employee said the owners were out of the country. He once again promised to fix the mistake, but Treece Zarkowski had heard that before. Things started to change once the original story aired.

"Within the hour, I had a phone call stating, 'Oh, my gosh. We didn't know this was going on. We want to make it right," Treece Zarkowski said.

"When I finally found out, 'Wait a minute, there's something wrong here, David Schroll, owner of Clinton Grove Granite Works, said. "So we resolved it."

Schroll has has been at Clinton Grove Granite Works for 35 years and says a lack of communication from inside the company is to blame for the error. He says he never knew about the problem until after the Local 4 story appeared on the 6 o'clock newscast,

He says the employee who made the mistake was too embarrassed to tell his bosses about the problem, and that employee stepped forward to
accept responsibility.

"The owners has nothing to do with this situation. It was my fault," Steve Sleziak told Local 4. "I was hoping to fix it on my own without their knowledge. Unfortunately, it did not work out that way."

Sleziak also wrote an apology letter to the grieving mother, and also apologized through Local 4.

"They should never have been put through something like this. This is very personal and I am eternally apologetic," said Sleziak.

Treece Zarkowski says she accepts the apology and says it is time to move on now that the headstone has been corrected. "I'm able to have closure now and I can move on through the rest of my grieving process."

Making Amends

The owners of Clinton Grove Granite Works say once they knew about the problem it was quickly resolved, and they installed a new, bigger headstone that will allow Treece Zarkowski to include some photos in the memorial, something she wanted to do. They had the new stone etched and installed in just seven days.

For the owners, the story surrounding the mixup has been stressful. They want to reassure customers that's not how they do business and that's not all.

"It hurts you inside, more personally," said David Schroll, owner of Clinton Grove Granite Works. The owners have also changed the communications process to make it easier for customers to reach them directly, if any other problems ever come up.

Treece Zarkowski says the repairs will allow her to close this chapter and move forward. She told Local 4, "Now my kids got what they deserved. They deserve a proper place, a burial headstone to mark their graves, and they got it thanks to you."