More than a decade after the death of her father, Sandi Vasel lost her mother as well. And as it had been her parents’ desire to be buried alongside each other, Vasel duly made the arrangements for that wish to be fulfilled. However, when cemetery workers opened the grave at her mom’s funeral, her dad’s casket was nowhere to be seen.
In 2006 Vasel was mourning the loss of her beloved father Charles Bovenschen. For more than 50 years, veteran Bovenschen had been married to his wife Mary, and the pair had still seemed to be deeply in love.
Indeed, while describing her parents’ romance in February 2018, Vasel told FOX59, “They still held hands when they walked down the street.” Given the longevity of their marriage and their enduring affection for each other, then, the couple’s wish to eventually be buried side by side at Lincoln Memory Gardens in Whitestown, Indiana, made sense.
So, after his death, Bovenschen was buried next to an empty spot reserved for his doting wife when she eventually died. And her time came in February 2018, when she passed away at the age of 88.
So, as per her parents’ wishes, Vasel arranged for her mother to be buried beside her father. However, on the day of Mary’s funeral, her graveside ceremony was delayed. That was the first hint for Vasel that there was a problem with her dad’s final resting place.
It turned out, in fact, that the body of Vasel’s father was not in the grave that his family believed he was in. Indeed, when cemetery staff had dug up the plot in order to bury Vasel’s mother, they had found no other casket in there. And to make matters worse, no one was quite sure where Bovenschen’s remains actually were.
Explaining exactly what happened, Vasel recalled to FOX59, “I was kind of numb. I looked at [a cemetery member of staff] and I said, ‘What you’re telling me is, you don’t know where my dad is.’ And she says, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m telling you is, yes, we don’t know where your dad is.’”
In another interview with WRTV from February 2018, a distraught Vasel added, “On that day, not only had I lost my mom but I lost my dad again – not spiritually, but physically. When they opened the grave, they didn’t find the shelf. The shelf is what would have been above my dad’s casket to lay my mother on.”
Describing how she felt at that moment, Vasel continued, “My initial reaction was just shock. I just didn’t say a thing. Then I walked away, and I had to tell the rest of the family that dad was missing. Dad’s casket wasn’t there.”
Since Vasel’s father’s death, new owners had taken over the running of Lincoln Memory Gardens. However, before the handover, those formerly in charge of the cemetery had been subject to complaints; as a result, previous management may have been responsible for the burial error.
And when approached by WRTV, the cemetery’s current owners refused to comment on any previously alleged malpractice. Instead, they issued a statement reading, “We deeply apologize to the family and have immediately launched an internal investigation into the matter.”
However, that apology could not bring back all those hours Vasel spent grieving at what she believed was her father’s resting place. “[I] put winter blankets on the grave, put flowers on the grave, talked to him, and now it’s like I was talking to an empty grave,” she told FOX59.
And Vasel’s main concern was that her father had been mistakenly buried with someone else. This meant that another family may have been affected. Altogether, then, she had stern words for the cemetery management.
Speaking to WRTV, Vasel said, “I want them to find my dad. They need to find my dad, and they need to do it soon.” In her interview with FOX59, she added, “Their job is to protect their assets. Their assets are the people that are buried there and the family members.”
Furthermore, as Vasel waited for news of her father’s whereabouts, she struggled to sleep at night. In particular, she feared that she wouldn’t be able to fulfill her parents’ wishes. “It was their desire to be buried together for eternity,” she said.
Indeed, the discovery of the empty grave put Vasel’s life in a kind of limbo. She didn’t bury her mom, for instance, as she had instead decided to wait to see if her dad was found. That way the couple could finally be put to rest together, as they had so desired.
However, with no sign of her father’s remains being found any time soon, all Vasel could do was sit tight. “I don’t know when, it could be tomorrow, it could be next week a month, who knows?” the distraught daughter said to FOX59.
Then, a few days after Vasel’s mother’s funeral, Bovenschen’s casket was eventually located in an unmarked grave in Lincoln Memory Garden – a row over from the plot where his family had believed him to be interred. And, according to Vasel, cemetery officials had been “very apologetic” when they broke the news.
So, with her father finally found, Vasel could lay both him and her mother to rest. Now, the devoted daughter’s nightmare was over, and she could start getting to work on honoring her late parents’ wishes. And in February 2018 Vasel told FOX29 that this was “quite a relief.”
In the end, then, Vasel and her family planned another burial ceremony for April 2018. This time, her parents would be laid to rest alongside each other, just as they had always wanted. Charles and Mary would be together again, in fact – and this time it would be forever.