|photography by Matt Hawthorne|
When publicist Cherri Oakley recently decided to sell two small pieces of land in Dallas, she was delighted to learn that her property had appreciated more than 3,000 percent since she bought it in 1985. According to the Metrotex Association of Realtors, the price of the average Dallas home has risen only 172 percent during the same period. There is, naturally, a catch—a couple, in fact.
Oakley’s land consists of two burial plots at Sparkman-Hillcrest Cemetery. She originally paid $250 each for them, and although the cemetery now values them at $7,590 each, Sparkman-Hillcrest will not buy them back. “I originally bought them for myself and a husband,” Oakley says. “Never got the husband, and, anyway, I’ve decided to be cremated, so I put them on Craigslist.”
But the history of Oakley’s holdings is even more eccentric than its present, beginning with a Valentine, a friendship, and two dogs. In 1980, Dallas real estate broker Jack Wertheimer surprised his wife Dianne with an unconventional Valentine: four Sparkman plots. “Odd as it sounds, the present was a huge hit,” Wertheimer says. Dianne’s dog STB (pronounced Stib) died soon after. “She decided to bury STB in one of the plots,” according to Wertheimer.
Then as now, burying animals was against Sparkman policy. “I have no idea how they could have accomplished this,” says Frank Sedio, the cemetery’s general manager. “Maybe they did it at night.”
Sadly, STB soon had a neighbor; Dianne died suddenly in 1985. “That’s when I knew I had to buy my plots,” says Oakley, who was Dianne’s business partner and close friend. “We had always planned to be buried next to one another and to stay as close in death as we had been in life, so I bought three adjoining plots.”
She has two plots left because, in 1986, a second pet joined Dianne and STB: Oakley’s dog Roberta Black. “We had to be discreet about it, but it was a very moving funeral,” Oakley says.
According to Oakley and Wertheimer, the appropriately named Sparkman employee who sold them the plots was Ernest Toumbs.