comScore

Sisters had a hell of a time burying their brother, are suing small Minnesota town

A mishap involving Joel Trebesch's grave meant he had to be dug up and reburied twice. His sisters are seeking $50,000 in damages.

A mishap involving Joel Trebesch's grave meant he had to be dug up and reburied twice. His sisters are seeking $50,000 in damages. City of Arlington

Joel Trebesch, a 50-year-old Kandiyohi man, was driving a Chevrolet Silverado pickup down Highway 71 in October of last year. At some point, his truck crossed the center line and plowed into a Toyota Tundra driven by another 50-year-old man: Mark Tanhoff of Renville. Both men, tragically, were killed, and a passenger in Tanhoff’s truck was critically injured.

Authorities determined it was just a freak accident. The roads were dry. There was no alcohol involved. Regardless, Trebesch, an experienced welder and a “kind, loving man,” left a large family behind—including 10 sisters and brothers, 17 nieces and nephews, and 16 great-nieces and nephews, according to his obituary.

His funeral took place later that month, and he was buried in the Arlington Public Cemetery. The family had grown up in the small Minnesota town, and they hand-picked a plot that would be “easy for family members to access,” KSTP reports.

That was supposed to be the end—a little closure for the family after a sudden loss. But about a week later, Trebesch’s sister, Joy Schwanke, got a call from the city of Arlington.

“We found out we had to move him,” she told KSTP. Something was wrong with the plot—either it was in the wrong spot, or it hadn’t been measured properly. Either way, the city made arrangements to rebury him in May, when the ground was a little softer, and pay the family for their trouble.

According to Schwanke and her sister, Precious Stier, the city jumped the gun. It reinterred Trebesch’s remains before they could get a minister out to preside over the burial. Stier told KSTP they had to “pull him back out” and do the whole thing over again.

Burying your brother once is one thing. Burying him three times is another. The sisters were so “hurt” by this, they said, that they’re suing the city of Arlington, seeking at least $50,000 in damages and, at the very least, an apology.

Arlington City Administrator Pat Melvin didn’t respond to interview requests, but he sent a statement saying that the burial mishap was “an unfortunate incident.”

“The body was buried in the correct location based on the city’s knowledge at the time,” he said. “Information later became available that required moving the decedent.”

He also said he had the majority consent from the 10 siblings before proceeding, so the city was “surprised” by the lawsuit. He declined to comment further on the pending litigation.