TRAVERSE CITY -- Small kindnesses can make a huge difference to a grieving family.
Like a headstone, an added cost to an already expensive funeral that sometimes just cannot be managed. If a family member is unable to swing the $500 up to thousands of dollars for an engraved stone, a grave can go unmarked for months or years.
For Dawn Basnett, years stretched into three decades and counting for her mother, Pamela, who is buried in Elk Rapids Township's Maple Grove Cemetery. Pamela was brutally murdered in 1976 at the age of 29; Dawn was eight years old. Thanks to a family friend, Tim McKenzie, and a local funeral home director, a simple marker now graces Pamela's grave.
"It was devastating," said Basnett of having her mother's grave unmarked for so long. "We found out she actually had a stone and when her body was exhumed they lost it."
The installation last May provided a measure of peace. This has been even more important now as Dawn faces the scheduled -- and to her horrifying and inexplicable -- December release from prison of her mother's murderer.
McKenzie spotted the notice in a paper last spring that Vaughn Seavolt, of Life Story Funeral Home, was offering to help purchase cemetery markers. Seavolt, who facilitated markers for Basnett and another family last year, is kicking off the program again for 2010.
"He's my savior, let me tell you, he's done so much," said Dawn of Seavolt.
The grave marker service fulfills a vision for Seavolt, who launched his business two years ago determined to make a difference where he could.
"I've been in the funeral business for 23 years now and I always said when I opened up my own funeral home I would be able to help families in ways that were meaningful that I couldn't working for a funeral home owner," Seavolt said. "It was sad to not be able to see families mark the grave of a loved one."