Grave Issue at Mount Zion Cemetery Expected To Be Resolved

Photo by Heather Ziegler Mount Zion Cemetery volunteers, from left Charles Yocke, Lee Pasquale and Paula Stein, examine gravesites in an effort to resolve a mystery regarding a local woman’s burial plot.

WHEELING — It’s been nearly two weeks since her death, and Nancy Mirich’s remains have not found a final resting place yet.

Mirich, a resident of Wheeling, died on March 12 of complications from a heart attack. She was 87.

Her funeral was held on March 16, however, an hour before the service, her son Peter was informed there was a problem at the cemetery where his mother was to be buried. He and a funeral director went to Mount Zion Cemetery, located at 300 Fairmont Ave. in Wheeling. The 14-acre property is located along Caldwell’s Run, not quite in the city but bordering the county as well.

At the cemetery, Mirich’s son learned that while workers were digging his mother’s burial space next to her late husband’s grave, they realized a vault was already in the space.The Miriches had purchased the gravesites to be buried next to each other.

It’s unclear who is buried in Nancy Mirich’s spot. However, Paula Stein, a member of the Mount Zion Cemetery Association, a volunteer group caring for the cemetery grounds, believes it is a vault that has slid down underground from a nearby plot.

Mirich’s family has expressed their disbelief and outrage to various news oulets, but did not return the News-Register’s call for comment.

The problem — one all too familiar with older graveyards throughout the area — is that no one has actual ownership over the operation of Mount Zion Cemetery, once under the auspices of a Zion Lutheran congregation. Later, the Ohio County Commission oversaw its operation, but said funding ran out. Graves in the yard date back before Civil War times. There are dozens of Civil War, Spanish American War and World War II veterans buried there.

As the cemetery fell into disrepair, Wheeling resident Debra Beaver got a small group of volunteers together to tackle the overgrown, neglected graveyard. The Mount Zion Cemetery Association was born. Today it has a handful of associates including Stein, her husband Chuck, who live across the street from the cemetery, and daughter Stacy Hercules, who serves as association president.

Charles Yocke, who lives in the area, and Steven Davis are among those also regularly tending to the cemetery. Volunteer Lee Pasquale also has been working to remedy the situation for the Mirich family.

While Stein has cemetery records, they are sketchy in places when it comes to how many lots were sold and who is buried where. Her own parents’ graves have been compromised by the ground slipping and they, too, could not be buried side by side as planned in Mount Zion.

In the area where the Miriches purchased gravesites, there is a large monument for a Dr. Thomas Armbrecht. According to Pasquale, Armbrecht bought 32 plots including the one on which his monument stands. These lots are adjacent to the Miriches’ plots.

“Armbrecht started giving away plots and so there are people buried all over here,” Pasquale said pointing to the Miriches’ plots. “We can’t figure out how many others have slid down.”

Situated next to the Miriches’ plot is a grave for the late Dolph Richardson whose wife is still living and is expected to be buried next to her husband upon her death. However Stein explained that it may require moving the vault in Nancy Mirich’s plot to accommodate the Richardson family, too. That still leaves unanswered questions at to where Nancy Mirich will be buried.

As of Saturday, the family was reviewing options for burying their loved one. It was Nancy Mirich’s last wish to be laid to rest next to her husband. The cemetery volunteers are working to resolve the issue that could include the option to move both Mr. and Mrs. Mirich to a new site in the cemetery so they may rest in peace together.

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