Drowning Victim's Family Raises Funds To Bury Daughter

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Updated 11/2/2012

Thanks to plenty of help and a large sum donation from an anonymous donor, the family of Latonya Merriweather have now properly buried the 28 year old who tragically drowned August 22nd in Lake Shawnee.

Just days ago the family was still $5,000 short of funding a proper burial but an anonymous donor helped out with the remainder and on Friday November 2nd the family was able to lay Latonya to rest.

Bruna Gladney recalls the dreadful day at Lake Shawnee. It was a family outing Latonya Merriweather had been begging to go on. "She loved that lake," Gladney remembers her daughter.

"That's Latonya, that's when we were playing in the water," Gladney said, pointing to several photos on her living room table.

The snapshots of Latonya Merriweather splashing in the water with her son and her family, lovingly framed and put between plastic sheets, were taken just before she drowned.

That was August 22, one month ago.

"Today is her 29th birthday," Gladney shared. "It'll be a month tomorrow that she passed away. So this is really hard. I just want my daughter to be laid to rest, " she said.

"She's still in that funeral home," Gladney said, her pain visible through her tears.

Merriweather's family hasn't been able to give her a final resting place, because they can't afford the burial expenses.

So far, she's only come up with a fraction of the cost. "The money I had used is my brother's personal money and my daughter, what she had in the bank," Gladney said. "We only have $1500."

A burial can run in the thousands of dollars. Add to that the cost of a burial plot and the fee for the opening and closing of the grave, around $1000. Gladney says her family has pulled together and her church has helped with donations.

"We went and did her hair and the church bought her clothes," she said. United Methodist Church, where Merriweather worshipped, made two donations, she said. But it hasn't been enough.

Gladney says her daughter's body is still at Bowser-Johnson Funeral Chapel, while she tries to come up with the money for the burial.

13 News made several calls to see what could be done. When staff at Mount Hope Cemetery heard about the family's circumstances, they offered to help.

Ren Newcomer, owner of Penwell-Gabel and Mount Hope Cemeteries, offered the family one of the plots at Mount Hope.

"From the bottom of my heart, we understand our responsibility to Topeka, Kansas and the residents," he said when he called 13 News with his intention.

Merriweather's mother and her great-aunt went to meet with cemetery staff on Friday and were given a deed to a plot. They also found out the grave site will be just steps from the graves of Merriweather's grandparents.

"That's a blessing," Gladney said. "We really appreciate that," she said.

"She's a beautiful person. She had a boy," Gladney said, then paused for a long time. "He misses his mother," she said finally.

Gladney said she hopes Merriweather's seven-year-old boy will be able to visit his mother at her final resting place, bring a cake and decorate her grave soon.

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