Tarpon Springs changes unusual headstone rule after WWII vet is left without marker for 7 months

Pinellas County

Tarpon Springs' old regulation stipulated only the "owner" of the gravesite could approve headstone; since he was dead, daughter was told to get a court order

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) – Margie Bridges was determined to get a headstone for her father, a veteran who died in May. She had to fight the city of Tarpon Springs to do it and, in the end, an old city rule was changed.

The change paves the way for other families who had also been denied the opportunity to put up headstones to honor their loved ones.

“It would not have happened without you, I just don’t believe it would have,” Bridges said.

Margie turned to Investigator Shannon Behnken over the summer, months after her father, William Bridges, passed away.

The City of Tarpon Springs wouldn’t allow her to put up a headstone in the city-owned cemetery without a court order. It was because an old city rule said only the “owner” of the plot can authorize a headstone. The fact that Margie’s father bought the plot wasn’t enough to convince the city he’d want a headstone.

That changed after our Better Call Behnken investigation put the city’s unusual policy in the spotlight. The city commission has changed the rule.

“It wasn’t about winning and I’m not sure I want to use that word ,” Margie said. “It’s a victory, yes. It’s a victory for my Dad. Not me, I didn’t win anything. My dad won a tombstone.”

One of the reasons this change came about is because Vice Mayor Jacob Karr responded to report. At first, his colleagues said there was no way they’d change the rule but Karr helped change their minds.

“It really surprised me when you brought this to me and I’m super proud that you brought it to me, and I thank you for doing that. There’s a lot of things in government that don’t make sense and they have to brought out before you know that they are actually there.”

As for Mr. Bridges, Better Call Behnken helped the family get a veteran marker through the U.S. government.
As soon as his headstone arrives, the marker will be moved to the foot of the grave..

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