All dogs may go to heaven, but Mark Stern doesn't think dogs should go next to the $20,000 space he purchased at an elite Boca Raton mausoleum.
It's just the most recent indignity to be visited on Stern in the 11 years since he first purchased a crypt in the Gardens, a cemetery on Military Trail. The sanctuary designed for the mausoleum on the north side of that property looked beautiful based on the artist renderings -- Stern and a friend each paid $10,500 for their space. The sanctuary was to be built within 24 months, in 2001. It still hasn't been built.
The property, says Stern, was sold to another developer, who has been reluctant to begin construction and has done a poor job maintaining the property. Notes, photos, cards, and deflated balloons littered the cemetery grounds during a recent visit.
"This is a very high-end mausoleum," says Stern. "Or at least it was supposed to be." He felt so bad about his role in convincing a friend to buy a crypt there that Stern purchased it, doubling his investment in the property.
Stern says he makes "semi-annual" trips to his future resting place, which is along a wall to the side of the sanctuary stage, where religious services are held. As he strolled past adjoining crypts, Stern noticed one that listed a person who died at just 13 years old. How tragic, thought Stern, who took a step closer to read the inscription. "It said 'Mommy and Daddy love you,' and that's normal, but then it said, 'King of the Poodles.'" He had found the final resting place of Alec "Poo" Rosen, a French poodle.
"I was livid," says Stern. "To spend $21,000 only to be buried for all eternity next to a French poodle? Nobody wants that. What other animals are they going to put in there?"
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Adding insult to injury, the section of the mausoleum that would house Stern's crypt is reserved for Jewish people. "So what they're saying is that they won't allow non-Jews here, but they'll allow dogs?" Doesn't that seem off the wall?"
Stern took that question and a host of others to a meeting with a man who was the owner -- or at least claimed to be over the phone. That man invited Stern into the office, but Stern says that after he expressed his frustration, the man told him, "Get the fuck out."
Stern was hoping to contact other investors in the property, perhaps to bring a class-action suit, but the developer has been unwilling to share their identities. Now Stern hopes to find them by taking his story to the media.
I'll try getting in touch with the Gardens owners in hopes of updating this post. UPDATE: The Gardens management -- a man named Stephon who refused to give his last name -- did not comment for this article.