Families upset after items removed from cemetery graves

Cemetery owners say items posed safety risk
Posted at 6:59 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-09 18:59:04-04

At first glance, grave sites inside Hillsboro Memorial Gardens look pretty normal. But in the past couple weeks, families have noticed some changes.

"When I first came out, I just noticed there was a big pile of people's mementos stacked up in a corner. And they had been, I know for a fact, on people's graves," said Angela Rudisill.

Rudisill's mother and grandmother are buried at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens. At first, she didn't think anything from their headstones was missing, but later realized a special pink vase was gone.

"It's very hurtful because they're special memories to us. There's just hardly any words to describe how it feels to see things taken off of your loved one's grave," said Rudisill.

The cemetery's had a small sign posted out front for years, limiting what kinds of displays graves can have.
But Rudisill says until last week, those rules have never been strictly enforced. She comes to the cemetery at least twice a week to visit her mom and only saw new extra clean-up signs posted days after a dump pile had been started.

"To me, it's sacred ground that should not be touched," Rudisill said.

A cemetery spokesperson issued a statement saying they empathize with families who want to add personal items to grave sites, but say "certain grave decorations may present safety hazards to grounds workers and visitors to the park."

But that's little comfort to family members like James Wilson who says a flag and custom holder was ripped from his father-in-law's grave and claims a maintenance worker told him to look for it in a dumpster.

"He served 25  years in the United States Air Force. To come out and take an American flag off--it's disgraceful to me," Wilson said.

Families say they'll follow any new rules the cemetery is now enforcing, but just wish they would've been given better notice before their belongings were uprooted.

The full statement for a cemetery spokesperson is below:

"We certainly empathize with grieving families who wish to add personal items to the graves of their loved ones. However, certain grave decorations may present safety hazards to our grounds workers and visitors to the park. Wooden, glass, metal or plastic parts can easily become airborne and dangerous.

We have an obligation to all the families we serve and their loved ones who are interred at our cemetery to maintain a consistent standard of appearance, as well as safety in or around grave sites. We post signs regularly to make all of our visitors aware of the removals so families have ample time to remove any items they wish to keep, and we keep all removed items at the cemetery for a reasonable period so that any family who wishes to retrieve an item has the opportunity to do so. It was never our intention to upset or offend any client family."