Digging for Daddy: Local Family Searching for Father’s Remains

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DALLAS — It’s hard enough to bury a loved one, but people don’t expect to bury their trust too.

Mary Hurst's father passed away when she was just 16.  Decades later, when Mary’s mother wanted her husband’s remains exhumed and moved from Illinois, they found the unthinkable.

“When I inquired with the cemetery to have him moved to Texas, they informed me he was no longer there,” Hurst explained. "My mother’s last wish was to be buried next to her husband."

Her mother never saw that wish.  She died in 2006.

“She never remarried.  She wore her wedding band until the day she died,” Hurst said with tears in her eyes.  “It made me feel like I was a failure, because my mother never asked for anything in her whole life, just to be next to the love of her life, her husband.”

Now, Mary and her daughter Lisa Lopez are on a mission — culminating with a book.

“It’s called Digging for Daddy: A Promise Kept. Of course, a promise comes in because we made a promise to my grandmother that we would leave no stone unturned,” Lopez said.

With the permission of St. Sava Cemetery, they dug up more than 100 graves there, spent around $50,000, even lost their home.

In light of the Johnson Family Mortuary trial, they’re trying to tighten laws.

“We spoke to Sid Moody, he’s the DA who tried the Johnson brothers, and he is on our side for changing laws. He said the images that he saw, he would never get out of his mind,” Hurst said.

“There needs to be more oversight on cemeteries. There needs to be more oversight on their record keeping,” Lopez added.

“If it hadn’t been for Senator Birdwell and his Chief of Staff, it was hard to get anybody to listen to help us with this,” Hurst explained. “Now, we have found the help that we need to get these laws changed.  They have to change, or this will continue to happen.”