The Frammartino siblings were close during their years growing up in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood.
When the chance to be interred next to each other arose, they jumped at the opportunity.
Six of the seven siblings and their spouses bought spaces in a new mausoleum they understood was to be built at Northlawn Memorial Gardens in Cuyahoga Falls, adjacent to the mausoleum where their parents, grandparents and other relatives were laid to rest.
Now, after spending more than $70,000 on the crypt spaces, the siblings are concerned that the mausoleum may not be built and aren’t sure what will happen if one of them dies. They recently filed a lawsuit against Northlawn and Stonemor Partners, its parent company.
“If something happens before this concludes, we don’t know what we’ll do,” said Dan Zampelli, a retired Akron police captain who is married to Anna Frammartino.
“We’re getting older, not younger,” agreed Vincent Frammartino, Zampelli’s brother-in-law, and, at 71, the oldest of the siblings.
This was the second lawsuit in less than a month filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court against Northlawn and Stonemor Partners LP. The first was filed late last month by Janet Shover, a Cuyahoga Falls woman who bought tandem crypt spaces in Northlawn’s mausoleum for her and her husband, but was told after her husband Terry died that his casket wouldn’t fit into its intended spot because of a problem with the crypt. Like the Frammartinos, Shover is uncertain about her final resting place if she dies before this dispute is resolved.
Stonemor, headquartered in Pennsylvania, has the second largest network of cemeteries and funeral homes in the United States. The company is no stranger to complaints and litigation.
The company has been sued by employees who say they were forced to work long hours and weren’t paid overtime, investors who claim they were misled about the company’s financial prospects and customers with numerous grievances, including not being buried where promised, having the wrong remains placed in a custom-ordered casket, delays in the installations of headstones and high-pressure sales tactics.
A spokesman for Stonemor declined comment this week. He said the company doesn’t discuss pending litigation.
Angelo and Cecilia Frammartino are interred in adjoining crypts at Northlawn, 4441 State Road, surrounded by about 20 other family members.
In 2014, Northlawn officials pitched to the Frammartinos' children the chance to buy crypts in a new mausoleum that was to be built adjacent to where their parents are interred.
The family was told the mausoleum would be constructed within a few years, Zampelli said.
Four of the children and their spouses, Vincent and Rosa Frammartino, Maria and Domenico Simonetta, Carmela and Joseph Panetta, and Anna and Daniel Zampelli, purchased crypts Dec. 30, 2014. They paid and received a certificate of ownership on Jan. 13, 2015.
“I used to joke that my eternal condo was all set,” Zampelli said, laughing.
While visiting their parents’ crypts in the summer of 2017, the Frammartino siblings realized that the new mausoleum they were told was going to be built by their family’s crypts was instead being constructed on the other side of the mausoleum.
A Northlawn representative met with the family in December 2017 and told them it was never Northlawn’s intent to build a new mausoleum adjacent to where their parents are interred, according to the lawsuit.
“That really was very emotional for us,” Vincent Frammartino said.
The family entered into an agreement with Northlawn in February 2018 to move Angelo and Cecilia Frammartino to the new mausoleum being built at no cost to the family and to give the siblings who had purchased crypts a $2,500 discount.
Two more siblings and their spouses, Lucia and Giuseppe Manno and Demetrio and Susan Frammartino, signed up for crypts at a discounted rate and under a payment plan with interest-free financing in March 2018.
Toni Hoza, the seventh Frammartino sibling and the only one who doesn’t live in the Akron area, was then the lone sibling who hadn’t bought a Northlawn crypt. The siblings range in age from 59 to 71.
Other than a section by the mausoleum being cordoned off with orange fencing, no additional work on the new mausoleum has been done and the Frammartino siblings now question whether that project will happen. None of them has received certificates of ownership for the revised crypt spots they agreed to in February or any rebates.
Zampelli said the family hasn’t been told that the new mausoleum won’t be built but the construction area looks the same as it has since the summer of 2017. When he recently visited the cemetery, he noticed a sign posted near the entrance that offered discounts, including 25 percent off mausoleum spaces. He said he wondered if this involved spots still being sold in the mausoleum that may or may not be built.
The Frammartinos sent letters and emails to Northlawn for several months threatening legal action if they didn’t get answers to their questions. Jim Henshaw, their Akron attorney, also reached out to the cemetery and its parent company but got no response. They filed a lawsuit Dec. 14.
The family has also filed a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
A former local Stonemor employee, who asked that his name not be used, said he now thinks the company had no intention of building the mausoleum, though it sold crypts to the Frammartinos and many other families.
“We have lied to these families for years,” he said. “Very deceitful.”
The employee was among those who dealt with the Frammartinos and wasn’t surprised when they sued. He said Vincent Frammartino said to him at one point that he had seen no progress on the construction of the new mausoleum. He said he told him, “You’re right. I don’t know what the holdup is.”
“It made me feel like, this is wrong,” the employee said. “It’s just wrong.”’
The employee said he left Stonemor to work for another cemetery company because of the problems he was seeing.
“To the families who have been taken advantage of, I absolutely feel for them,” he said. “I would be livid.”
The Frammartinos' complaint alleges fraud, breach of contract, violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The family is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.
Zampelli said the siblings altogether have paid more than $70,000 for the crypts, which range in price from about $10,000 to $19,000, depending on the placement on the wall. He said the siblings who financed their spots are still paying monthly for them.
Frammartino said the family is concerned that they could lose the money they’ve paid to Stonemor. Zampelli said they also may have to pay another cemetery for a burial spot. And, Henshaw said, they might not be able to be next to family if they end up in a different location.
The lawsuit is assigned to Judge Alison McCarty.
Henshaw said civil lawsuits can take 12 to 18 months.
Henshaw says the family isn’t sure at this point what they want done to rectify the situation because they have too many questions, including why they haven’t received ownership certificates, whether the new mausoleum will be constructed and when this will happen.
Henshaw acknowledged that other families may be in the same situation, but said his main focus is helping the Frammartinos.
“If there are other families, I’m happy to talk to them and have them potentially join in,” he said.
Vincent Frammartino, a former Tallmadge school superintendent, said he felt for the Shovers when he read about their experience and wonders how many other families who have purchased spaces at Northlawn are having similar problems.
“Choosing a final resting place is an important, emotional decision to make,” he said. “We feel for the people who might have to go through the same emotions we have.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.