published Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Crematory memorial designer chosen in Walker County

  • photo
    Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell
    Staff File Photo by Andy Johns/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Walker County officials have decided to use Tennessee-Georgia Memorial Park cemetery to design a memorial that has been in the works for 10 years for Tri-State Crematory victims.

Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell reviewed bids this week from three North Georgia companies that had proposed designs for a monument in honor of the 334 bodies found discarded at the Noble, Ga., crematory in 2002. The discovery attracted international attention and changed the way crematories are regulated.

The monument will be built using $45,000 allocated by the Georgia Legislature when the bodies were discovered.

Heiskell met last weekend with families of people whose bodies were found at the crematory after she was criticized earlier this year by some of them wanting to know why the money had not been spent. But Heiskell said those relatives could not agree on how they wanted a memorial built.

The three Georgia companies chosen to propose bids, D&S Monuments of Dalton, Ga.; Huggins Monuments of Chatsworth, Ga.; and Tennessee Georgia Memorial Park, presented proposals to Heiskell and family members.

Heiskell decided this week the memorial park would design the monument because it would be erected in that cemetery.

The park was "the most logical" choice, she said.

But representatives of the other monument companies said they were surprised by the quick decision.

The companies were supposed to redesign their proposals based on the recommendations at the meeting and come together again to discuss the best option, said Zach Huggins, owner of Huggins Monuments.

At the weekend meeting, officials decided the monument couldn't include the names of everyone found at the crematory, because cemetery officials would have to get written permission from each person's family, Heiskell said. And some family members said they didn't want their relatives' names carved on the monument.

Officials decided instead that families will have the option to ask for foot stones with their loved ones' names carved on them, Heiskell said. But the family members will have to ask for that option.

Leatha Shropshire, whose mother's body was found at the crematory, said she is glad officials finally made a decision on the monument. But she worries that relatives who live outside the area won't hear about the foot stone option.

"Individual stones is a good idea," said Shropshire, who has pushed for the monument. "But not contacting all the families upsets me."

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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