AUSTIN (KXAN) — From skydiving in their sixties to numerous vacations and spending time with family and friends, John and Alice Touchstone, according to their granddaughter, lived their lives to the fullest.
“I mean my grandma and grandpa never met a stranger,” Allison Vanzant said.
“Touchstone Plumbing,” the family business John founded in 1979, is a staple in south Austin and Vanzant said he often donated his plumbing services for causes like Habitat for Humanity.
“They set the bar pretty high for grandparents,” Vanzant said.
But even though the “firecracker” and the “good ol’ boy,” as Vanzant describes them, lived life large, the markers on their graves at Austin’s Assumption Cemetery are meager. There is a small metal marker at John’s grave and a small, broken stone plate at Alice’s. Vanzant discovered the plate was cracked during a time there was heavy equipment at the cemetery for a construction job.
“My grandma would not be pleased,” she said.
Vanzant said the family paid Assumption Cemetery $1,600 for a headstone and approved a proof of what it would look like in March 2022, but after more than a year of emails back and forth, and unanswered phone calls, Vanzant said they still have no headstone.
“We never heard anything again for like months,” said Vanzant.
That’s not the only issue with Assumption. Another viewer recently contacted KXAN Investigates concerned about sinking gravesites, misplaced and covered headstones and trash.
Travis County property appraisal records show Assumption Cemetery is owned by the nonprofit Catholic Cemetery Association and St. Edward’s University.
KXAN Investigator Mike Rush made repeated calls to the association and the cemetery and visited the cemetery in person to get a comment about the issues.
Eventually, a woman who identified herself as a receptionist told Rush on the phone there would be no comment from the association or the cemetery.
St. Edward’s University had no response when we asked about the conditions at the cemetery or the Touchstone family’s grave marker.
The family doesn’t know what to make of the silence from the cemetery they trusted to take care of their loved ones.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Vanzant said. “I don’t think it’s intentional, but I can’t say it’s not.”
What can you do about cemetery issues?
Cemetery trouble is a topic KXAN Investigates has exposed before. In December 2022, we told you about a family fearful they’d lost their loved one at the Travis County International Cemetery because his headstone may have been moved to the wrong place after some construction.
In January 2023, at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, we highlighted fallen headstones as well as deep ruts and tire tracks over graves.
According to the Texas Historical Commission, the state has around 14,00 cemeteries. Except for about 240 designated as perpetual care cemeteries with trusts set up for maintenance, there is no state agency that regulates them.
That means complaints must be made to the state, county, city, community, church or religious group that owns the cemetery.
If you’re having problems with a cemetery, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association and other organizations fund the Cemetery Consumer Service Council.
According to the ICCFA, the purpose of the council is “to assist consumers, without charge, in resolving complaints or answering inquiries regarding cemetery services or policies.”
The Texas Cemeteries and Crematories Association also has resources on its website on how to file a complaint depending on who owns the cemetery you’re having an issue with.