Woman leaves delicate dilemma of changing mother's gravestone to Layron

Sondra Marcus wants mother's maiden name placed on headstone

NORTH LAUDERDALE, Fla. – "She was fabulous," said Sondra Marcus. "Everybody loved her."

Marcus described her mother, Lucille, as a "vibrant, beautiful go-getter." 

Marcus was a teenager when her mother died from colon cancer in 1979. 

"I know she's with me, anywhere I am, but I find comfort coming here to visit," she said as she was standing next to her mother's gravesite at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in North Lauderdale. "From the day that I saw this plaque, this gravestone, I said to myself, 'That is not my mother.'''

Marcus said the name on her mother's headstone, Lucille Stemm, has bothered her for 40 years.

"I've got to make this right before I can't," Marcus said. 

She told the Leave it to Layron team that she and her siblings were young when their parents divorced, but a few years before she died, Lucille remarried a man named Paul Stemm.

"[We] just want to get her stone changed," Marcus said. "I just want to put her name on there -- her real name."

More specifically, Marcus said she and her siblings would like her mother's headstone to read "Lucille Pasquariello." Pasquariello is her mother's maiden name.

"And I was told I couldn't do anything because I didn't purchase this stone," Marcus said.  

Paul Stemm paid for his wife's burial plot and marker. According to officials with the cemetery, he is still listed as the owner of record, but he is not buried there.

Stemm remarried after Lucille's death. He passed away in 2007 in Tallahassee and was cremated, according to his death certificate.

Marcus thought presenting the cemetery with that information and the official document would help get her mother's marker changed.

"And they told me there was nothing they can do because he was married after my mother," she said. "I said, 'What does that have to do with my mother?' 'Well, there could be heirs, or there could be children of that marriage.' And I said, 'There's not.'" 

Marcus said the woman who Stemm married after her mother died is also dead.

A representative with the cemetery said the name on the marker matches the name on Lucille Stemm's death certificate, and without the owners' permission, it cannot be changed.

"I think part of the problem with the cemetery management is they are concerned -- they want to protect themselves," said Robin King, an estate planning probate and guardianship attorney. "They are concerned that someone may come out of the woodwork -- whether it's six months from now or six years -- and say, 'Why did you change it? You didn't have the authority to do that.'" 

But King explained that a judge, through a court order, could authorize changing the headstone.

"And if the judge signs the court order, that should protect the cemetery management," King said. "I think it would not be dishonoring anybody, and I think the judge would understand why the children would like to have the name changed."

"We're the only ones that care -- my sister and brother and I, our children, and someday, our grandchildren," Marcus said.

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