Friday, May 3, 2013

FloGas Took Wilkie's Body & Dumped It

We received this letter earlier today from April Koonce. We're publishing it in its entirety and will comment below:

This probably isn't the right venue for my letter to be printed, I'm not sure what would be, or if anyone would even want to hear my story, but it is therapeutic for me to make people aware.  I want others to know how the Gas Department took something so important from me.

I feel a crime has been committed upon me for which there can be no restitution.  Something that belonged to me was stolen, along with any chance for closure.  There are those that won’t understand my grief, but there are those who certainly will.

The coolest cat in the Universe, Wilkie, well, I couldn’t have possibly adored him any more than I did.  He was much loved.  I was protective, never letting him go outside until he came in to his elder years.  He always wanted to go out there, and I didn’t want him to die not getting to enjoy the warmth from a sunbeam.  His favorite spot was beneath a hedge on the side of my house.

He developed blood clots on November 18, 2012, and despite their efforts, the vets at the emergency clinic weren’t able to save him.  He died with my arms wrapped around him.  I did not let him go until I placed him in his eternal resting place, beneath his favorite hedge.  A spot I had visited every morning since.  For a temporary marker, I had placed 3 bricks, symmetrically aligned.  I enjoyed cutting flowers from my yard to place on the bricks. You see, my other cat, Leeroy, is to be buried next to Wilkie, as they were very close.  Leeroy is old and in poor health.  I took comfort in knowing I could bury them side by side.  I had big plans for that plot; I was going to make it very special once they were both there.  Probably a rock garden, I hadn’t yet decided.  In my grieving, that had brought me peace.

Wilkie & Leeroy
On May 1, 2013, this was all taken from me by the City of Florence Gas Department.  They were moving my gas meter.  I was told they might have to “cut back a hedge”.  I joked that they should neatly trim them all.  I came home that afternoon to find the brick markers tossed aside, and the dirt of Wilkie’s grave was upturned with his favorite hedge on the side of the road.  I saw pieces of his white fur scattered around.  I became hysterical; I called the man I’d been in correspondence with from the gas department.  He sounded sincerely sorry about it, and I believed he was.  He didn’t know my cat was buried there, and I didn’t know he was going to dig up my yard.

It was decided a friend would recover his remains so I could bury him elsewhere and create a new sanctuary.  But his remains were not there.  The man from the gas department was contacted again.  And this is when I knew the apology couldn’t have been sincere.  This crew from the gas department, for some deluded reason of which I will never, ever be able to understand, decided they had the right to put my beloved pet in a bucket and in to a trash can.  Now he is unrecoverable.  He and Leeroy will not be buried side-by-side.  I am left with images of my companion of 14 years in a mass of things that were never important enough for anyone to keep, picked at by buzzards.  An unloved animal is seldom buried.  Why was he not put back down in the earth?  Better yet, why wasn’t I contacted?  My phone number was at his fingertips.  Wilkie was mine.  It was MY choice!  They DID NOT have the right to do what they did.  An unloved animal is seldom buried.

Wilkie's Grave Before Flogas Destruction
I am deeply mournful and incredibly angry.  To me, this is an ethical crime and morally reprehensible.  I don’t know what could make me feel better right now.   I know so many people have suffered things so far worse than this, and I have always been very empathetic and I hurt for people I do not even know, but no matter how trivial this may be to some, it hurts me so much.

All I can do is write out my grief and my injustice and hope that someone out there who loves their pets as a part of their family reads this, and will NEVER EVER allow this to happen again.


How did this happen? I shared the letter with another blogger to get a second opinion on this misdeed. She felt perhaps the men were just this "dense," to use her word. Were they?

I personally can't understand this. These workers, unless mentally deficient, knew this was a grave. Their actions were intentional and hurtful. Were they having a bad day and decided to take it out on a dead baby and his grieving mother?

April isn't asking for money; she simply wants to make sure this doesn't happen to someone else. We'll be happy to publish any rebuttal from Mike Doyle, FloGas General Manager; however, unless he's written up these employees, there doesn't seem to much he could say that would matter at this point.

Florence Utilities Gas Department
110 W. College Street
Florence, AL 35630

Telephone: (256) 718-5100
Fax : (256) 767-1818

Florence Utilities Gas Department
650 Rickwood Road
Florence, AL 35630

Telephone: (256) 760-6490 - (256) 767-3430
Fax : (256) 767-1818

Michael Doyle, Manager
Email Michael Doyle

Regina Hall, Administrative Assistant to the Manager
Email Regina Hall

Tim Truitt, P.E.
Email Tim Truitt

Field Operations:
Jerry Bates, Field Supervisor
Email Jerry Bates

Randy Fannin, Public Affairs Coordinator
Email Randy Fannin

Gas Controller:
Dolphus King, Chief Gas Controller
Email Dolphus King

Laura Butler, Administrative Assistant to the Chief Gas Controller
Email Laura Butler

GIS Department:
Stan Pruitt, GIS Gas
Email Stan Pruitt

Larry Grace, GIS Water
Email Larry Grace

Technical Services:
Kenneth Davis, Technical Services Supervisor
Email Kenneth Davis

Reid Ware, Stores/Training Coordinator
Email Reid Ware




  1. I was informed of this unfortunate incident yesterday morning by the foreman of the crew. As Ms. Koonce stated, he did apologize for what occurred and he is sincerely saddend as well. I too also understand Ms. Koonce's grief as my friend and family member of 16 years is buried near our back door so that she is always close by. We, as Ms. Koonce wishes, will make every effort to insure this does not occur again by discussing with the customer ALL areas that will be disturbed before work occurs. My staff and I express our apologies to Ms. Koonce. Mike Doyle, Manager

    1. I hope that Ms. Koonce feels as we do that this is a sincere apology. Someone suggested in private that animals should be interred in containers. I agree with this, but I have friends who feel they should "return to the earth" as much as possible.

      We love our four-legged family members, and most of us expect them to remain with with us in part after they leave this life. I hope April can find comfort in some type of memorial.

  2. "I am new to your comment section so this may be a duplicate post"

    I was informed of this incident yesterday morning by the foreman of the crew. As Ms. Koonce stated, he did express his apologies for what occurred and is deeply saddened. I do understand Ms. Koonce's grief. My friend of 16 years, Pixie, is buried near our back door to always be close by.

    As Ms. Koonce wishes, my staff will discuss all areas that will be disturbed with the customer as part of the preplanning process to insure something like this does not occur again.

    My staff and I express our sincere regrets to Ms. Koonce.

    Michael Doyle, Manager
    Florence Gas & Water/Wastewater Department

  3. Thanks for posting this letter. When April told me about this, it was very saddening. I am happy to see that Mr. Doyle has replied with an apology and to ensure this doesn't happen again.

  4. Thank you again, Shoalanda. I do appreciate the apology from Mr. Doyle. I am trying very hard to move on from this, and I will be able to, but just am very, very sad right now.

    I will have Leeroy cremated along with the bits of matted fur I found from Wilkie's body. Originally I planned to have Wilkie cremated, but it was more of an ordeal because it was the weekend and I was at the emergency vet. The idea of putting him under his hedge struck me, and that's what I wanted to do.

    I have never liked the idea of being contained. I like the idea of decomposing and giving life back to the earth. When I would visit his grave, little blades of grass were beginning to grow, and I knew that his body was part of that. Now I see why a container might have kept this from happening.

  5. The question becomes whether the workers realized what was happening AS it happened. I can understand the gas department's surprise to uncover tufts of hair unexpectedly as they dug, but wouldn't the natural reaction when one realizes one is unintentionally unearthing a grave (pet or otherwise) be to then STOP and reconsider how to proceed with the project, given that issue? The fact that Ms. Koonce was a phone call away speaks volumes. Was the foreman "sincerely saddened" as he watched the remains of the cat thrown unceremoniously into the trash? Such apologies are rarely sincere and rightfully fall on many deaf ears.

    I appreciate Mr. Doyle's position as a supervisor in that he was not there and only learned of the matter afterwards. That said, to refer to it as merely an "unfortunate incident" is an unfortunate understatement. Perhaps Mr. Doyle was only speaking of the events leading up TO the initial digging, as accidentally discovering a body laid to rest would indeed be an unfortunate incident. How the situation was handled from there went far beyond "unfortunate."

    If the above details are accurate, what transpired afterwards would be seen by any rational individual as the actions of a callous, cold-hearted person/crew, and - frankly - a shining badge of laziness on their part. When the question arose of what to do in that situation, was it not the crew's job to ask the foreman, and the foreman's job to contact his supervisor if he didn't know the answer? With both his supervisor's and the resident's number at his fingertips, the foreman failed to respond properly when he chose to call neither but rather dispose of the deceased cat's body. The only issue more troubling than why he didn't call one of any number of people who could have resolved the situation would be if he HAD no question of what to do and thought tossing someone's buried cat into the trash was the reasonable thing to do. One can hope there aren't people who think that way...

    So no, Mr. Doyle, I respectfully disagree that it's not just an "unfortunate incident." At worst, it's a sincere transgression against our society's oft-reiterated hope that the deceased are able to "rest in peace." At best, it's a very, very poor reflection on the Florence Gas Department and suggests a general lack of respect for their customers.

    I realize that there is likely nothing that can be done to bring back the body of Ms. Koonce's cat at this point, but one would think the FloGas foreman and any crew member(s) personally responsible for committing the invasion, desecration, and presumed mutilation of the corpse buried in Ms. Koonce's yard would have the integrity to offer her a sincere and personal apology on their own. I understand it is Mr. Doyle's responsibility as supervisor to apologize for the actions of his staff, though one would hope that the responsible parties would have done so as individuals. Then again, one would've hoped they would've stopped digging when they began unearthing a body under what were obviously unnaturally placed bricks marking something, so...

  6. This might not be the most PC comment, but was the foreman of a race that might be afraid of cats? Some ethnic groups are, just saying.

    I have several dogs and cats buried in Lauderdale County. I cannot imagine how this lady feels and think she may have grounds for a lawsuit.

    1. I don't think April wants to sue; however, some compensation for a marker would help soothe the issue and bring FloGas good will. I live in Florence and would be more than happy for our gas department dollars to provide for this.

  7. -D-,

    Your response so eloquently expresses exactly how I am feeling. When I came home to find what had happened, I was hysterical. I could actually smell the decomposition of my baby. There was a large rock that had his fur stuck to it, and pieces of his fur and one small bone scattered in front of my basement door. This must be where they threw him a bucket. I was angry that they had not reburied all of him (but now I am thankful because it is small, but it is something). It was not until the next day that I learned they actually threw him in a bucket and tossed him in the trash and that the trash had already been picked up. That is when the line was crossed. I was trying to forgive them digging him up and not contacting me about it, but throwing him in the trash is unforgivable. I will never forgive that, I do not have to. It is just unacceptable. The ground was already dug up, so why could they not just put him back under there before they covered their line up? They were irresponsible and heartless. He was buried with the towel that had been in his pet carrier and also another trinket. Obviously, a grave.

    They were moving my gas meter reader, which was in my fenced in back yard with my dog. For a couple of years I had been calling my gas reading in every month, and was fine with that. The first couple of years I lived here, whomever read my meter then must have climbed over my fence, because my meters were accurately read, no estimated readings. I didn't know what moving a gas meter entailed, in my mind I picture them cutting a hedge shorter than the other hedges and sticking a meter on the side of the house, with a pipe running along the house to the back yard where the original meter was. I wasn't informed there would be digging and I didn't think there would be any reason to.

    I had accepted part responsibility for not asking for more details of what they would be doing until I found out they threw him in to the garbage. With that, forgiveness and understanding went out the door.

    I am relieved that they will now discuss in detail with homeowners what will be happening so that this hopefully will not happen again.

  8. South Bound,

    No, no. Race wasn't a factor. I saw two men, one white and one black. I don't know how many other people were involved with this, but no one had the good judgment to speak up and keep the remains from being tossed in the garbage. I imagine they didn't want to deal with the odor, that is the only thing I can reckon. Which is why they should have called me. My dad was 30 seconds down the road, he could have come immediately and picked up the remains.

  9. Now I'm crying again. How heartless. I just can't imagine. Why, oh, why? Low IQs? That's all I can fathom...

  10. Shoalanda,

    As as impulse, in my sadness, I had considered suing, because I truly feel this was gross negligence. I took a day and half off work because I cried in front of a client, which is grossly unprofessional. In my consideration, I would have sued for a donation to PAWS in Wilkie's name. But then, I just decided to write the letter you posted in the hopes that some policy might be born within that department on how to handle a situation like this.

  11. I have been friends with April for 30 years, so I know firsthand her love of all animals. I know how much she adores Wilkie. I can picture the entire event in my head vividly, and it makes me sick to my stomach, extremely angry, and very sad.

    I do think that a lack of common sense was to blame, and there was no harm meant, but that does not make it OK.

    I hope that this is indeed a learning experience for those involved and a reminder to THINK about how your actions affect others before you act.

    Thank you, Shoalanda for giving my dear friend a public forum to bring this to light.

  12. Yes, thank you for publishing this. You take up causes left behind by others who should care. Flogas? They should buy the kitty a monument.