Carolyn V. Jacobi, whose life's work as a cemetery consumer advocate led her to establish Eternal Justice, which spurred the founding of the Maryland Office of Cemetery Oversight, died Jan. 7 of a heart attack at her home in Fort Washington, Prince George's County.
She was 75.
"Certainly Carolyn was a true advocate for those who couldn't speak for themselves and defended the rights of the deceased," said Victor C. March, who is president of the Maryland Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors.
"She has been from the very beginning protecting the rights of those buried in cemeteries. She understood the dynamic of cemetery operations because she had worked in the industry," said Mr. March. "Carolyn dedicated the last quarter of her life to the protection of cemeteries and for those who have loved ones buried in them."
Ruth Ann Arty is executive director of the Maryland Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors.
"She had the same passion for speaking for the protection of the dead as I have," said Ms. Arty. "Her mission was to make sure that someone was speaking for the dignity of the dead."
"Carolyn was a woman of small stature but was awesome, dynamic, articulate and had a very commanding voice. She has always been a close friend and adviser to me," said Lu Moorman, executive director of Preservation Alliance, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Baltimore's historic Mount Auburn Cemetery, Baltimore's oldest African-American cemetery as well as one of the nation's oldest.
"She had a great voice and never took no for an answer. Her story is one of inspiration and dedication," said Ms. Moorman. "She never turned anyone away and was just a ball of fire."
The two women became acquainted when Ms. Moorman and Ms. Jacobi were searching Mount Auburn Cemetery for the graves of relatives.
Ms. Jacobi's activism in preserving the long-ignored, overgrown and vandalized Westport cemetery came about after visiting her father's burial site in 1995 and finding scattered human remains, a fragment of his skull and a smashed headstone.
"She told me during our conversation that she had had problems with Mount Auburn," recalled Ms. Moorman. "Through our activism, we were able to get some help from Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church and brought the plight of the cemetery back in focus for citizens. She helped get the land cleared of weeds and undergrowth."
In 2001, the cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1995, Ms. Jacobi launched Eternal Justice Inc., a national cemetery watchdog organization that she directed from her Fort Washington home.
"I have no social life, I have no personal life," she told The Baltimore Sun in a 2013 interview. "This is my social life. Going into cemeteries. … My life revolves around cemeteries."
Ms. Jacobi's work investigating neglected cemeteries, improper cemetery practices, including bodies being interred in the wrong graves or two in the same plot, crisscrossed the county and Canada as she attempted to educate governments and the public about the hallowed ground and history that cemeteries embody.
Her crusade led to appearances on "20/20," "The Phil Donahue Show" and the ABC, NBC and Fox networks.
"She worked to maintain neutrality between cemetarians, funeral homes, monument retailers and other branches of the funeral industry," said Ms. Moorman.
In 1997, then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening signed into law a bill that Ms. Jacobi had supported that created the Maryland Office of Cemetery Oversight, an agency that addressed the needs of aggrieved families and dealt with the previously poorly regulated cemetery industry.
Dressed in her colorful trademark millinery and footwear, Ms. Jacobi fought for the rights of the dead and their loved ones.
"She was valiant in her efforts," said Mr. March.
"She never minced or wasted words and always spoke the truth, even if you did not want to hear it," said Wendy Harp, her goddaughter, who lives in Columbia.
One of Ms. Jacobi's last campaigns in 2013 was to save Rosa Bonheur Memorial Park in Elkridge, an 8-acre cemetery for both pets and humans, that was threatened by development.
The daughter of James Williams and Helen Stewart Williams, Carolyn Virginia Williams was born in Baltimore and was raised both in Sandtown-Winchester and Germantown, Pa. She was a graduate of city public schools.
She attended Coppin State University and the University of Pennsylvania, said her daughter, Lamonde L. Jacobi of Fort Washington.
She had worked as a schoolteacher and in banking, and later was sales director at Maryland National Memorial Park in Laurel. She was also a consultant to Monument Builders of North America, a trade organization that helps consumers select gravestones.
Ms. Jacobi who had lived in Columbia and Laurel, enjoyed line dancing.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Reed Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1400 Glenn Dale Blvd., Glenn Dale, Prince George's County.
Her daughter is her only survivor. A marriage to Rudolph Jacobi ended in divorce.