Shifted: A lost plot in Green River Cemetery

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Whenever Dick King thinks about his final resting place at Green River Cemetery in Springs, his brow furrows and his open face clouds over. Mr. King, 73, wants his plot back, the one he says is his, the one beneath the cedar tree.

It was the cedar, a big one not far from the white fence at the entrance to the cemetery, that first caught Mr. King’s eye when he and his wife, Betty, went to select a plot. This was many years ago, way before Green River, with its famous artists, writers, musicians and other creative types reposing alongside generations of departed Bonackers, became a must-see tourist attraction up near the end of Accabonac Highway.

The superintendent and caretaker of the cemetery at the time the Kings came by was V. Jarvis Wood, who, Mr. King recalled, walked them around the graveyard, looking for a good place along paths dotted with relatives’ headstones: Kings and Fields and Bennetts and a few Dellgrens (a bygone Swede by that name married a King aunt).

There were vacant spots available near the old family graves, but Mr. King kept coming back to the tall cedar tree. He liked the idea, he said last week, of being “under that tree, there in the shade.”

There was another inducement for him as well. Right next door to the cedar, set off by one of the most distinctive monuments in a cemetery full of singular stones, lay the grave of the artist and sugar heir Alfonso Ossorio, the longtime owner of The Creeks estate on Georgica Pond. Mr. King, a plumber who worked for and befriended a number of artists back in the day, thought Mr. Ossorio would make a fine neighbor.

So the bargain was sealed. “In consideration of five hundred dollars … for the purpose of sepulture,” the Kings received a deed for Lot No. 191 B, containing four plots. And there matters stood until seven years ago, when Richard Bennett died.

The Kings were on their way in to Green River for Mr. Bennett’s graveside service when Mr. King spotted Freston (Pete) Anderson in the crowd and asked to meet him after the ceremony, to talk about marking out his plot. Mr. Anderson, an East Hampton Town bay constable, was and still is the president of the cemetery board.

“That’s when I found out I’d be planted in the wrong place,” said Mr. King, grimacing as he described the conversation that followed.

“I was standing up underneath the cedar tree and [Mr. Anderson] comes rolling up and I said to him, ‘That’s where I am.’”

“He had this rolled-up piece of cardboard in his hand and he looked at it and says, ‘Oh no, you’re not,’ he says, ‘You’re over here,’” pointing “down along the fence somewhere.”

“‘Like hell,’ I said. ‘I’m not there.’”

But, he said, Mr. Anderson, with the cemetery map in hand, held firm.

“I was in shock when he told me,” said Mr. King. He never would have picked out a plot “so close to the traffic” on Accabonac Road, he added.

“Jarvie Wood took me here, and he said, ‘There,’” Mr. King insisted, motioning toward the cedar. “I’ve told everybody I’d be planted under that tree, there in the shade. Next to Ossorio.”

After the exchange with Mr. Anderson, Mr. King called Mr. Wood. The old man, who died in his 90s not long ago, tried hard but couldn’t remember a thing, Mr. King said.

Mr. King doesn’t come across as someone who would readily mistrust his fellow man. But he is not getting any younger, and he harbors dark thoughts. Did some rich newcomer covet his choice plot? Was it somehow, by mistake or otherwise, sold out from under him? If he doesn’t own it, who does? The ground under the cedar is undisturbed; there are no markers or stones proclaiming proprietorship.

Mr. Anderson was out of town and could not be reached this week. According to another cemetery trustee, Jean Hamilton, he is the only one who has a map of Green River.

Meanwhile, Mr. King fumes. “I think I got shifted,” he said. “This has been burning my crop ever since it happened.”

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