By Emilie St. John
CARSON — The Lincoln Park Memorial Cemetery has mysteriously closed with no notice to the public and without notifying families who had burials scheduled at the cemetery.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, was outraged by the closure.
“It is absolutely absurd to close a cemetery, where loved one’s rest and should be able to be visited by their family, friends and others who cared for them, without any notice or justification,” Gipson said. “This issue is not new for me. In 2021, I championed AB 651 into law, to authorize a county in which a private cemetery is located to assume responsibility for that cemetery should management have their license suspended, revoked or surrendered.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 651, which increased the minimum amounts for each plot sold or disposed of that an endowment care cemetery is required to deposit in its endowment care trust fund, over a three-year period.
“Without any exceptions, it is critical that all cemeteries remain accessible to the community,” Gipson said. “In the case of Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery, there is still an existing license, and this falls directly on cemetery management to reopen their gates immediately. I will not stand for anything less and will continue working diligently to resolve this issue expeditiously.”
The ordeal began when Kenneth Pitchford shared with a reporter that his family was due to bury a loved one at the cemetery but found the phone disconnected and the gates closed.
“Our loved one is still at the mortuary because they can’t be buried here now,” Pitchford said. “We’re just looking for some answers as to how we can get her buried.”
Another resident said her sister tried for weeks to get into the property to lay flowers and also found the gates closed.
“She went one day and the gate was closed,” Theresa Watson said. “This was two weeks ago, and she called me and said ‘The gate is closed. I can’t get in.’”
Carson officials posted notices to the gate instructing visitors to contact the state’s Cemetery and Funeral Bureau for answers after they found the cemetery’s license good through the end of October.
“The city does not own or operate this cemetery.” said the notice posted to the city’s website.
Carson City Councilman Jawane Hilton has also gotten involved by contacting the state.
“Spoke with the state … [and] it’s a private cemetery [and] they are opening an investigation,” said Hilton when contacted for comment.
State records indicate the owners of the property, Lincoln Park Memorial Inc., are based in the 7000 block of Lanai Street, in Long Beach, a residential home.
Calls to CEO John Mintz were unsuccessful as phone numbers are disconnected.
This isn’t the first time the 20-acre cemetery came under state scrutiny.
In 1995, the state intervened after a pop-up visit from an official discovered poor recordkeeping which made it impossible for families to find the gravesites of their loved ones.
Mausoleums were found to be empty and walls were missing after families attempted to verify if their loved ones were in fact buried.
“I’ve been to cemeteries all over Los Angeles County,” said Rev. John L. Hunt, at the time, who provided funeral services at Lincoln. “And this is the worst. The worst.”
At the time the cemetery was owned by Hollywood Memorial Association, which owns the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery.
It is unknown when the property came under the control of Mintz.
Families are outraged and have left reviews on the internet with complaints dating back months before the owners closed the gates.
“Where are our families!! I want a explanation on why wasn’t any notice to the families so we can remove our love ones before y’all closed !!! This will be a lawsuit !!! And I won’t stop until I have mine back !!!” wrote Ashley Sims.
“Terrible upkeep!!! More weeds than grass. I have to clean up my parents grave every time I go there. Shame on you!” said Linda Freeman.
Lincoln Park Memorial is also the final resting place for PFC. James Anderson Jr. who was honored by U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan and the city of Compton by having a Compton Post Office renamed in his honor last year.
“Touring area cemetery’s by bicycle, I came across this memorial to PFC James Anderson Jr., the first Black American Marine to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1967,” said Noel Profitt.
The cemetery’s signage along Central Avenue indicates it’s an endowment cemetery that collect funds for the purpose of caring for, maintaining, or embellishing the cemetery to preserve it from becoming unkempt or a place of reproach and desolation.
AB 651 requires the state to report the findings and recommendations to the appropriate policy committees of the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2029.
The bill also allows Los Angeles County to assume responsibility for the maintenance of the cemetery and to preserve public access, until the court appoints a temporary manager, if a court has not appointed a temporary manager within six months of the suspension, revocation or surrender of the license of a cemetery manager of a private cemetery or the appointment of a temporary manager has expired. The bill also requires the county to assume maintenance responsibilities.
Gipson wrote the bill in response to the closure of Woodlawn Cemetery, which is located across the street from Lincoln Memorial Park, after then owner Ruben Suarez surrendered his license in January 2020.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.