Shortly before dying of lung cancer in 2010, Bruce Abare requested that he be cremated and interred at Fountainhead Memorial Park, a cemetery the 51-year-old drove past every day while working as a postal carrier.
“I like the openness back here. And the quietness back here,” said Abare’s longtime partner David Musgrove, who frequently visits the cemetery to look at Abare’s name etched on a nearby memorial wall. “It’s calm here. Sad, but calm.”
Two years ago, Musgrove was at the home the couple once shared when the phone rang. The Caller ID indicated it was someone from the cemetery.
“I answered the phone and they say, ‘Can I speak to Bruce Abare?’ And at first it was just jarring,” said Musgrove. “The very place he’s at is calling to ask for him? I thought it was some kind of joke.”
After explaining to the telemarketer that Abare was no longer alive and had been laid to rest at their cemetery, Musgrove assumed his partner’s name would be removed from the company’s sales call list. But six months later, someone else from the Fountainhead Memorial Park called and asked to speak with the deceased, he said.
“He’s there in your gardens,” Musgrove told the caller. “She said, ‘Oh my gosh!'”
About six months later, according to Musgrove, another cemetery worker called and requested to speak with Abare.
“Are you guys going to get this right?” Musgrove said he asked the telemarketer. “I told you he’s there. He’s dead!”
A sales supervisor reportedly told Musgrove that the deceased’s name was finally being removed from the call list. But on March 3, Musgrove received another phone call.
“I don’t think I’m asking too much, I really don’t,” Musgrove said.
After that fourth mistaken phone call, Musgrove said he believed the cemetery’s sales office had finally corrected the error. So when Fountainhead Memorial Park showed up on his Caller ID just six days later, he assumed someone was reaching out to apologize for the repeated mix-ups.
“I answer the phone, I say, ‘Hello?’ They say, ‘Is Bruce Abare there?'”
Although Musgrove’s home phone number is on Florida’s Do Not Call list, companies he and Abare have done prior business with, such the cemetery, are allowed to call. But that does not mean those businesses can always contact their former customers.
“According to the rules of the Do Not Call program, a business should stop calling an individual when that individual asks the business to do so,” said a spokesman for Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the Do Not Call list. Violators can face a $10,000 fine per call.
The state agency has not received any prior telemarketing complaints about Fountainhead Memorial Park.
“When we receive a request to remove a name from our call list, we make a notation in our database not to contact the individual. This removes the name from all call lists,” said Jessica McDunn, a spokeswoman for the cemetery’s parent company. “Occasionally, mistakes happen. In these circumstances we work to ensure our list is up-to-date.”
McDunn would not confirm whether Bruce Abare’s name has been removed from Fountainhead’s list, nor would she specifically comment about Musgrove’s allegations of repeat sales calls, citing privacy concerns. Fountainhead Memorial Park staff handles those sales calls in-house and does not contract the work to outside telemarketing companies, according to McDunn.
“It brought back really sad memories the first time (the cemetery called). And the second time. But it really does irritate me now,” said Musgrove, who said he believes the company was trying to sell his late partner upgraded funeral arrangements.
“The credit card company stopped calling. Everyone else did. Nobody calls for him. But the place he’s buried can’t get it,” he said.