Grave difficulty: Errol Sawtell was upset when he could not visit his wife’s grave due to inadequate wheelchair access at the Lismore Lawn Cemetery.
Grave difficulty: Errol Sawtell was upset when he could not visit his wife’s grave due to inadequate wheelchair access at the Lismore Lawn Cemetery. Cathy Adams

Grieving husband's dilemma

WHEN Pat Sawtell died last December her husband of 52 years, Errol, decided to fulfil her last wish and bury her in a rose garden.

The beautifully-manicured Lismore Lawn Cemetery was the obvious choice, however, Mr Sawtell, 79, of Lismore, is wheelchair-bound and has had difficulty trying to visit her grave.

“It was okay visiting here for the first couple of months because my son could drive me right to the grave in the car. But when they put in another line of graves council workers told me it was pedestrian traffic only,” he said yesterday, tearfully.

“Had it been explained to me beforehand I probably wouldn’t have buried her here.

“I would have taken her to Bangalow where her mum and dad are buried.”

Opened in 1964, the cemetery is still being extended and rows of graves have historically been placed almost toe-to- toe, leaving no room for footpaths for easy access.

Mr Sawtell, who wants to visit his wife’s grave most Sundays, said he had to buy a $2000 motorised scooter and a $7000 ute for his son to put it in.

However, this presented another problem.

“I almost toppled off the other week because of a big pothole in the grass,” he said.

“Handicapped people there have no access at all. You have to make your own.

“I’m still waiting to hear if I can use my scooter.”

A council spokesperson said the council was aware of Mr Sawtell’s difficulties, but could not allow car access to his wife’s grave because it might disturb other sites.

However, they have assured him he can use his scooter and will write to him confirming that after previously verbally informing him.

The spokesperson said as the new section of the cemetery was further developed and grass was laid, the surface would be flattened to remove potholes, including where Mrs Sawtell’s grave is.

According to the council’s Access and Inclusion Plan 2010/14, adopted at its meeting last Tuesday, there are 5203 people with a physical disability within the Lismore Local Government Area.

The plan aims to ensure that ‘people with disabilities have equal access to infra-structure and services’.



'Consider your fire plan': residents told to be prepared

'Consider your fire plan': residents told to be prepared

A total of 79 bush and grass fires burn across the state

Local Partners