Gladys and Arthur Goldstein bought a double-crypt so they could spend eternity together.
But then she died and he remarried, and Goldstein’s third wife had other ideas about who should be spending eternity with who.
Instead of spending his after-life with Gladys, Arthur and his new wife, Pennie Porter Goldstein, decided they should be together in the hereafter. They bought another crypt in the same suburban Boynton Beach cemetery, where Arthur is now buried.
With one plot to spare, Pennie then decided that Gladys would be the perfect companion for her 94-year-old mother when she dies. Pennie even had her mother’s name etched next to Gladys’ on the headstone.
More than slightly put-off by the marriage of names on the headstone, pairing his mother with a woman she never met, Gladys’ son, Dr. Reed Edelman, came up with an easy fix: He’d move his mother’s remains to a family plot in Boca Raton.
Then, the unexpected happened. Pennie said no.
In an only-in-South-Florida dust up, Edelman this week filed suit, asking a Palm Beach County circuit court judge to force Pennie to set his mother free.
“Basically, you’re holding a dead body hostage,” attorney Gary Susser said of the odd set of circumstances he is asking a judge to sort out.
Edelman, an eye doctor, put it less bluntly. “It’s with a broken heart I have to move my mom’s remains,” he said. “I never wanted to disrupt a body that has already been interred.”
But, he said, having his mother trapped forever with a stranger is unthinkable.
“It would be one thing if they had a relationship,” he said. “But to take a total stranger and put them next to her and then refuse to let her be moved to let her spend eternity with her family just doesn’t make sense.”
Pennie Goldstein, 66, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Edelman said he had no choice but to sue her. When his 83-year-old stepfather died in May 2011, Pennie inherited his property. That included the crypt where his mother, who died in 2006, is buried and the now empty one that was intended for Arthur Goldstein before he bought another one with Pennie.
According to Florida law, Susser said, only two people can authorize the removal of a body from a grave: the owner of the plot or a judge.
In hopes of avoiding a legal showdown, Edelman said he repeatedly asked Pennie to sign a paper that would let him move his mother’s remains. His stepfather’s sons made the same request. Even officials at Eternal Light Memorial Gardens, the cemetery west of Boynton Beach where Arthur and Gladys are buried separately, tried to intervene.
Pennie refused to budge.
Edelman said he promised to pick up the roughly $5,000 it would cost to move his mother’s body to the family plot at The Mausoleum at Temple Beth El. He even offered to sand down the headstone to remove his mother’s name from it once her body had been moved.
Pennie, he said, was adamant. She wanted her own mother to have a companion. And, according to Eternal Light rules, once Gladys was moved, no one could replace her. Cemetery officials said Pennie could sell the unused crypt and purchase another. But, according to Edelman, Pennie said she would only agree to let Gladys be moved if Edelman would pay for yet another double-crypt so her mother has company when she dies.
That, Edelman said, was an expense he wasn’t willing to bear. “It’s just not in my nature to pay greenmail,” he said.
In the lawsuit, he is seeking permission to move his mother’s remains and to be reimbursed for his attorney fees. Susser claims Pennie’s behavior constitutes “a tort of outrage”. That would allow Edelman to seek damages for pain and suffering.
“You shouldn’t have to go to the length of hiring an attorney to get this done,” Susser said. “This is the most foolish thing on Earth.”