Florida man’s dying wish to be buried in yard next to dog stirs controversy in Florida town

By Mitch Stacy, The Associated Press
Saturday July 13, 2002

ARCADIA, Fla. — Shortly before Rick Georges died of liver cancer in April, he started talking about being buried in the back yard next to his beloved pit-bull, Bocephus. 

Georges shared the idea with his ninth wife and sought help from a lawyer. Beverly Georges considered it his dying wish and vowed to make it happen. 

The widow’s effort to get city permission for the unconventional interment has enraged neighbors in their quiet, middle-class neighborhood. It has also sparked a bitter family feud, kept the local gossip mill churning and brought mostly unwelcome media attention to this picturesque town of 6,300 about 65 miles southeast of Tampa. 

“I’m just trying to do what he wanted,” said Beverly Georges, who wed Rick one week before he died at age 58. “He just wanted to be back there with his dog.” 

The city’s planning and zoning board officials say the burial would violate city codes, as well as diminish property values and set a bad precedent. Georges and her attorney, Sandra Sanders, argue that city codes permit the burial because the house is near a real cemetery. 

The City Council will have final say next month, but it’s unlikely Georges will win support from town leaders. 

“The primary use of residential property is for living persons, not for burying dead persons,” City Attorney David C. Holloman said. 

Neighbors fear that a gaudy monument will be going up in full view of most houses on the street. There’s already a cross and a garden marking the grave of Bocephus, who was buried four years ago. 

They’re also sick of the TV satellite trucks cruising the street and out-of-town reporters knocking on doors. 

“It’s bizarre,” said Lyle Kepple, whose front yard overlooks the dog’s grave behind a high chain-link fence. “We feel this is a quiet, family atmosphere, and this will change it considerably.” 

While the city decides, Rick Georges’ body is at a funeral home. Son Johnny Georges, 36, and other family members are angry he has not been buried in a cemetery. 

“We’re just trying to get him buried without having to go into this woman’s yard to kneel down and visit his grave,” the son said. 

Johnny Georges worked with his father for 20 years in their agricultural irrigation and frost-proofing business. He said his father was a flamboyant gambler and drinker who worked his way through women at a pace that left relatives shaking their heads. 

Rick Georges also enjoyed a good laugh, and his son said he was joking about being buried in the yard. It was, the son said, a ploy to secure his ”15 minutes of fame,” albeit posthumously.