Greenwood Cemetery: Who will bury Charles Sticklin?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Christina Kelley’s uncle died yesterday and she was asked by her aunt to handle his burial arrangements.

He owns a plot with six graves in Centralia, and wants to be put to rest there, where his grandson and mother-in-law already slumber beneath the ground.

However, the grave is inside Greenwood Cemetery, a memorial park caught in legal limbo.

Kelley, who lives in Monroe, said she couldn’t reach cemetery owner John Baker, who she’s been told is barred from his home, which doubles as a cemetery office.

Kelley spoke with Jennifer Duncan, the woman who served as temporary caretaker while Baker spent time in prison last year. Duncan told her that although she currently holds the license to make burials, she’s banned by court order from the property.

“The immediate problem, is we’ve got a family member who needs to be buried,” Kelley said on Monday. “If I could go dig the hole myself, I would.”

It’s a problem, Kelly said, as she made a round of phone calls looking for a solution.

Her uncle, Charles L. Sticklin, a 1959 graduate of Centralia High School, is a grandson of the cemetery’s founder, she said.

He’s been in and out of the hospital for the past month, and his heart finally gave out Monday morning, she said. He died in a veterans hospital in Meridian, Idaho, she said.

Kelley contacted the state cemetery board and was told they can’t help her, she said.

Joe Vincent, the administrator of the state Funeral and Cemetery Board, confirmed that Duncan as the licensee, is the only individual allowed to authorize burials, but the property rights of Baker somehow “carry more weight than burial rights.”

Duncan and Baker were in court in late August, when Lewis County Court Commissioner Tracy Mitchell gave Duncan 30 more days of an anti-harassment order keeping Baker out of the park in order for Duncan to wrap up obligations she’d made to cemetery clients.

The longtime friends were feuding and Baker said he wanted her to stop managing his cemetery.

Baker today when he learned of Sticklin’s death, said the cemetery will “doubly” bend over backwards to make sure he gets interred.

“I think I have the authority to open and close graves, as owner,” Baker said. It’s a different kind of authority than that the state licensing board conveys, he said.

While he is prohibited from living in his house, because, he claims, Duncan let his utility bills go in arrears and the electricity was shut off, he’s around there in the daytime and has a new phone number, he said.

If Duncan would “bow out” he’d get someone else to make burials, he said.

Baker obtained a temporary anti-harassment order on Oct. 31 prohibiting Duncan from coming within 500 feet of the cemetery, his home and office.

Meanwhile, Duncan is doing what she can, and hoping she can bury Kelley’s uncle.

Sticklin owns the grave and had previously paid for the burial expenses, according to Duncan.

Tomorrow, Baker will be sentenced for several violations of her anti-harassment order, as well as stalking and trespassing at the cemetery, and Duncan is going to ask that she be allowed to continue making burials until her license expires at the end of January, she said.

She expects part of Baker’s sentence will include him being prohibited from coming within 300 feet of her, as she is the stalking victim.

She’ll be in court tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

“I’ll bring it up, it’s the perfect time to bring it up,” Duncan said.

Also, Vincent of the cemetery board said yesterday, that last week he signed and delivered a statement of charges against Baker for past issues.

“He’s looking at multiple sanctions by the board,” Vincent said.


Read background here:

• “Conflict: Who will bury the dead in Greenwood Cemetery?” from Friday September 2, 2011, here

• “Cemeterian Baker charged with stalking caretaker Duncan” from Friday September 23,  2011, here

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2 Responses to “Greenwood Cemetery: Who will bury Charles Sticklin?”

  1. Troy Houghtaling Sr says:

    Lets not put all the blame on Baker, yes he has his problems but you noticed they all came to once Duncan got control. Duncan is not the right person for are cemetery. I have talked with Duncan and she is trying to change rules that have been in affect for over 30 years. Who is Duncan to come from Oregon and run are cemetery. She is trying to say what we can and can do not do with are graves. She is trying to say now that a grave can not be inherited by the next of kin. She says that we can only paint graves white, that we can not help others on there graves and help keep them clean. All of this is so she can make money of the poor. If she and her family would get a real job then maybe there would be more action going on at the cemetery. She has basically ran everyone out of there. All I have ever really seen here do is ride her lawn mower around the grave yard. Well why is she not painting graves and fixing cracks and holes in them. Why is she stealing gravestones and holding them hostage for more money. My family owns are graves and we (I) will take care of them not Duncan. Duncan is only there for the money not for the families or the dead. She wont even change her license plate to Washington.

  2. Yvonne Johnson says:

    I am so sad for Christina, after all the time and energy she has put into getting this cemetery to the condition her family had it before John Baker took over.. He has been a menace to hundreds of people. Besides, not even paying off Christina’s mother for the Cemetery.
    Now, Chuck, the brother of Christina’s Mother, needs a place in the family cemetery. I so hope this will work out well for the Sticklin family.
    Sincerely , Yvonne Johnson

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