ONLY ON KOLD: Tucson family fights to have loved one buried in historic cemetery

Tucson family fights to have loved one buried in historic cemetery

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A battle over the burial of a loved one continues for a Tucson family.

Rosa Figueroa passed away Dec. 15 at the age of 98. Since her death, family members have been trying to bury her next to other family members at the Fort Lowell Cemetery.

The private, historic cemetery is owned by the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association, so Steve Bennett Rios and other relatives have had to apply to have her buried next her grandmother, mother, sister and other family members.

The application included baptism, marriage and death certificates, as well as census records, photos and more information.

“She was born and raised here, she did her first baptismal here. She went through the elementary school here, we have photos to prove that in front of the Old Fort Lowell structures," said Bennett Rios. "So, we feel she is as much a descendant as anyone else plotted in the graveside here.”

Family members believe the girl circled in this photo is Rosa Figueroa outside an Old Fort Lowell structure.
Family members believe the girl circled in this photo is Rosa Figueroa outside an Old Fort Lowell structure. (Source: Provided by family)

Earlier this week, the family learned the Fort Lowell Cemetery Committee denied the request to bury Figueroa near other family members on the property. An email provided by the family said:

"To the family of Rosa Figueroa,

Thank you for resubmitting the application for Rosa Figueroa.

The Fort Lowell Cemetery Committee has reviewed the application. After carefully reviewing the documents that were received, we did not find that Rosa Figueroa was an original descendant of one the early settlers of El Fuerte village, (“Los Fuertenos.”). We regret to inform that we have declined your application."

Please accept our deepest condolences on behalf of the Fort Lowell Cemetery Committee."

“We want reasons and answers as to why she’s being denied," said Bennett Rios. “This woman is going on three weeks since she passed, she’s sitting in a morgue off of Grant for godsakes and she needs to be laid to rest."

The family reached out to Tucson News Now for help in getting an answer from the committee as to why members decided to decline the application. We met the family at the cemetery Friday, where we were also met by the president of the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association, who said the group needed to leave because it was private property."

“Why is it one person making the decision?" Bennett Rios asked.

After a heated exchange and about an hour of conversation on the side of the road, two members of the executive committee took another look at the documents that had been submitted. Charles Boyd, a member of the executive committee, then agreed to have a special meeting Saturday morning to look at the application again.

“We understand this woman’s died three weeks ago and the family wants to see her buried," said Boyd. "We’ll take a look at the paperwork and see if it now fits our requirements and if it does, we will give our approval.”

A small step that is good news for the family, at least for now.

“We’re not going to give up on this, because we feel she has not the privilege, but the right to be put back in the cemetery were she started from," said Bennett Rios.

This is a developing story. We will share any update on a decision from the meeting Saturday morning here.

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