Well-known cemetery shuts down in Canton

Families unable to bury loved ones after Knollwood Memorial Park shuts down

CANTON, Mich. - Families are unable to bury loved ones after a well-known cemetery in Canton suddenly shuts down.

When only memories remain they should be beautiful, but when Dan and Bonnie Bussard's daughter, Shelly, died of cancer they said putting her to rest was a living hell.

"We wanted a graveside service with the tent up and chairs, you know," said Dan Bussard.

"Everything was perfect. I wanted everything to be beautiful," said Bonnie Bussard.

"For us, it was a total disaster. We were at a low point," said Dan Bussard. "At the last minute we were finding out things. We couldn't properly bury our daughter."

Shelly died on June 23 and was to be buried at Knollwood Memorial Park on Ridge Road.

"We had prepaid the lots, prepaid for the opening and closing of the grave plots, and we had purchased from Knollwood a vault," said Dan Bussard.

But the family said the funeral home couldn't reach anyone at the cemetery. The Bussards tried themselves, even leaving messages on the door.

Dan Bussard said that on the night before the funeral, "We went to the Canton police because we were desperate. My wife is standing in the lobby at the police station bawling her eyes out, begging for help."

Police contacted the previous owner, Sam Tocco. He was able to call in a crew to help the family. The day after her funeral, Shelly was finally buried and the family said there was nothing beautiful about it.

"We stood there and watched the tractors dig the hole, put her in it, cover it back up. 'OK, we'll see you,'" said Bonnie Bussard.

Local 4 learned there are several families left in limbo, not being able to purchase a headstone or in some cases not bury their loved one. Local 4 went searching for answers and found the most recent owner, Tocco, is in a legal battle with the previous owner, his grandfather over some alleged fraud. A few years ago, the grandfather actually sold the cemetery to Tocco.

But while the courts hash out the fraud case, who runs the cemetery? A judge ruled Tocco can't do business there, although he's the one with the license so the grandfather is now back in charge.

"As far as he's concerned he has to uphold the courts decision, hears our motion for stay to decide what should be done whom," said Tocco's attorney, Mayer Morganroth. "All Sam can do is tell the people when they call is to call the grandfather for the burial, and that's what's happening."

The Bussards are hoping the cemetery gets its act together so no other family will have to ensure the pain that they did.

"I'm just glad she's now where she's supposed to be, but it still hurts," said Bonnie Bussard.

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