Elizabeth Watkins deserves better than to have her grave fall into disrepair, Louis Klemp says.
That's why he wants the city to take over a trust fund Watkins left to make sure her grave was taken care of at Oak Hill Cemetery.
"There's weeds covering the gravestone; a tree was blown over, and there's a broken urn," Klemp said.
Watkins, the widow of a Lawrence banker, died in 1939 and left trusts benefiting Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Kansas University scholarship halls and a host of other community institutions. Klemp's sister lived at KU's Watkins Scholarship Hall when she was a KU student, prompting his interest.
"I think it would be great for the entire community to view Mrs. Watkins' will," Klemp told city commissioners Tuesday, "for without the past, there is no future."
Klemp said the trust for the gravesite has also had problems. Watkins left $5,000 to maintain the grave. More than $5,000 was in the Bank of America account as recently as 1993, he said, but it has dwindled to about $1,800.
The money hasn't been spent on the grave, Klemp said.
"The only thing that was really being taken out during those years was bank fees and attorney fees," he said, noting that residents of Watkins and Miller halls at KU are suing over what they say is the university's improper handling of the funds as outlined in the trust.
Klemp reminded commissioners the city attempted to gain control of the grave trust in 1996 but was rebuffed by the judge who oversees the estate. Klemp asked them to try again.
"I think you need the resolve to follow through on your original request," he said.
Mayor Mike Rundle asked city staffers to report on the costs and consequences of making the second attempt.
City Manager Mike Wildgen said a Bank of America official called him Tuesday to seek city assistance in getting bids to do repair work at Watkins' grave.
"I don't know what prompted that call," Wildgen said, "but we'll follow up."