Judge allows buyer to move bodies from cemetery
Hartford Probate Court Judge Joanne Ertel said she had no jurisdiction to block the plan of Springfield businessman Michel Guite once an ancestor of the people buried in the cemetery withdrew her objection to the plan.
Now, Guite - chief executive officer of Vermont Telephone Co. - can forge ahead with his plan to remove the bodies of Noah, Louisa and Martha Aldrich from a 19th-century cemetery in Hartland.
The purchase of the 170-acre farm hinged on resolution of the cemetery issue.
Guite plans to build a new home on the farm, but says the cemetery move is unrelated. He said he wants to move it because he fears strangers visiting the cemetery pose safety concerns for he and his family.
Guite's plan ignited a firestorm of opposition from preservation advocates, veterans groups and others who called it disrespectful to the dead. Ertel made reference to that in her ruling Wednesday.
"Despite the fervent and far-reaching opposition to his plans, Mr. Guite has persisted in his quest," Ertel wrote. "The court finds it difficult to fathom his persistence in the face of such widespread and heartfelt opposition. It's hard to imagine introducing yourself to a community with an action that the community finds so abhorrent. Nonetheless, if he can find a legal basis, Mr. Guite seems to remain committed to obliterating the burying ground as it exists, grave by grave, legal issue by legal issue, until no semblance of it exists at its current location. Mr. Guite does not seem to share the community's reverence for the concept of a final resting place."
Guite's attorney, George Lamb, welcomed the decision but didn't comment on the judge's words.
"We agree with the legal (reasoning) in the case, which holds that Mr. Guite is entitled to get the permit from the town to remove the three graves he wants removed," Lamb said.
Hartland Town Clerk Clyde Jenne, who said removing the bodies would "go over like a lead balloon," said he will issue a permit for it once he gets Ertel's decision.
"I have never done this before," Jenne said. "It's not high on anybody's priority list, to remove bodies. What the law says, that's the way it is."
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