NOT MUCH LIFE IN TOMBSTONE SALE
One slightly used tombstone was sold Monday morning at the Reno County courthouse.
The events behind this unusual sale set much of the courthouse in an uproar as efforts were made to halt the sale, then delay it and even to determine who owned the stone and who paid taxes on it.
The strange transaction started when the sheriff's office attached the used grave marker for unpaid 1960 taxes. The taxes due on the tombstone are owed by E. M. Hotaling, former manager of the since reorganized Hutchinson Monument Co. Hotaling subsequently left town and the stone was seized at the Hutchinson Memorial Co, 202 North Maple.
As the hour of sale drew near, Clifton A. Park of Wichita, representing R. W. Park and Sons, a tombstone firm, appeared before the county commission and asked the sale be postponed. He said Hotaling hadn't owned the grave marker and that it already had been taxed in Sedgwick County.
Park said the grave marker had been made for a family in Macksville but the name had been misspelled and since it was hard to find anyone with that name who needed a tombstone, the marker was returned here and used for display. He said it was on consignment to Hotaling and that it was owned by the Wichita firm.
Apparently someone goofed when carving the stone. The name was supposed to be Johnston, but somewhere the "T" got lost and it came out Johnson.
Commissioners and members of the county attorney's office searched the statutes for a solution to the bizarre situation and found themselves powerless to stop the sale.
After the stay of sale was denied, bidders gathered in a hastily arranged tombstone territory near the front door of the courthouse.
"I have for sale one two-piece, red granite headstone hearing the name Johnson," said Undersheriff Elwood Mendenhall. "Who'll start the bidding?"
Bidding was not lively.
After only two bids, Park bought the grave marker for $70. The sale price did not cover the back taxes which were $75.62.
A waggish attorney then offered to start legal proceedings to change anyone's name to Johnson."We never sold a tombstone before," said Calvin Sheppard, sheriff.
December 3, 1962