From his upcoming book: CINCINNATI CEMETERIES; Ghost Stories and Other Strange Legends
In 1995, my father, Raymond Heizer Jr., went to Highland Cemetery to arrange for his burial next to his father Raymond Heizer Sr. in the Heizer family plot. What he was told began a family mystery that has now become a mysterious legend at Highland Cemetery.
He was told that there was already someone else buried in that grave. There was no headstone, and my father knew not of such an internment. My father was not one to let such things go unnoticed. No relative of his had died recently. A mystery of grave proportions was about to be unearthed…or was it?
So who was it that was buried in his grave? Who authorized the burial, and why? A strange mystery indeed!
Highland Cemetery records indicated that it was Florence Slater Pierce, who had been buried there on July 18, 1981, some 14 years prior. She had died on June 11, 1981 in Terrace Park, Ohio. So the question of who had been answered, but the question of by whom and why remained a mystery.
At the time, my father had proprietorship over the family plot, and any burial would have needed his approval, but he had not authorized her internment. There was no record of who authorized the burial of Florence Slater Pierce in his plot. He inquired with his two sisters, (my aunts) Virginia Hickenlooper and Betty Powell, but they knew nothing of the mysterious burial either.
My father was something of a Spiritualist, an amateur Medium, and so he attempted to contact the spirit of Florence Pierce and ask her who had buried her there and why. All attempts to reach her failed. It seemed she had literally taken her secrets to the grave.
My father, not one to let a mystery go unsolved, pursued an answer to his questions until his own death on March 30th, 1996. He was buried at Highland Cemetery in the Heizer plot, but on the other end of the burial row from his father. I attended his graveside service there on a chilly day in early April, as a few snowflakes fell from a lugubrious sky.
My older sister, Joanne, continued the search for answers.
She did some genealogy, and inquired further with family and the available records. Her research took her to the end of the paperwork’s trail. The following is what she was able to piece together of the mysterious internment. We all know that paperwork does not always tell the whole story. It is only an educated guess as to what really happened…
Through family genealogy, we found out that Florence Slater Pierce’s sister, Lucille Slater Heizer, was the widow of Joseph B. Heizer Jr.. Joseph was the brother of our grandfather Raymond T. Heizer Sr., making him our great Uncle and Lucille Slater Heizer our great Aunt. That would make Florence Slater Pierce, the woman at the heart of the mystery, our great Aunt once removed.
She was, after all, a somewhat distant relative.
Cemetery records list Lucille Slater Heizer as the next of kin, and our best guess as to who authorized the burial, although we do not know this for sure. The question of why remained.
It turned out that Joseph B. Heizer Jr. died and was buried in the Heizer plot in 1953, and it would have been expected that Lucille Slater Heizer would have been buried with him. But she was Catholic, and wanted to be buried with her family next door, at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. This would have left her spot available. In the time between Joseph B. Heizer’s death and her death, both our grandparents, Raymond T. Heizer Sr. and his wife Elizabeth Heizer, died and were buried in the Heizer plot; separating the graves of Joseph and Lucille Heizer. We think that Florence Slater Pierce was no longer Catholic, and therefore could not be buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, and so her sister had her buried in Highland, in her space, so they could be near each other. Lucille apparently thought that the space at Highland was hers to use as she saw fit, most likely not knowing that she needed authorization.
When Lucille Slater Heizer died on Feb. 23, 1982 she was buried in section 9-B lot #246 in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery next to Highland Cemetery.
In more recent years, various family members have offered other explanations for the unauthorized burial of Florence Slater Pierce in the Heizer family plot. Those explanations run the gauntlet from a dispute with Lucille Heizer over a farm, to the ghost of Joseph B. Heizer Jr., who still haunts the plot to this day. He is said to still be looking for his missing wife.
The mystery of the unauthorized burial remains just that, a mystery. We are only guessing as to what really happened and why. We will most likely never know the whole story. The truth…well…Who’s to say?