Cemetery apologizes after items were removed from graves

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GREENWOOD, Ind. (Nov. 14, 2014) — A Greenwood cemetery is apologizing after removing personal items from graves without properly informing families.

As FOX59 first reported on Monday, Dina Long was shocked when she discovered all the decorations and personal items she had placed on her son’s grave were gone.

It happened at Forest Lawn Cemetery on S.R. 135.

She said for the past two years she has been keeping her son Tyler’s grave decorated.  She said it always gave her comfort.

“For me this is where I feel closest to him,” she said. “For two years it was never bare.”

A Forest Lawn Cemetery worker showed her where they had moved her items: amid a pile of angels, flowers, and personal tokens next to a maintenance building.

“It’s a graveyard of pain for those of us who have loved ones here,” she said. “I was devastated. It was like a punch in the gut again.”

She was able to find a few of her things, but she wondered why she wasn’t told her decorations would be removed.

FOX59 went to Forest Lawn’s front office. While no one would talk to us on camera, a cemetery grounds supervisor told us it’s routine to clear the grounds this time of year. However, the cleaning dates had changed from Nov. 15 through Dec. 1 to Nov. 1 through Nov. 15.

That same supervisor told FOX59 the cemetery had posted the updated dates at the entrance, but when Fox 59 took a look, we found the old dates were still up!

“If they’re gonna remove something you know, come up with a way that you can notify people,” Long complained.

On Friday, FOX59 returned to Forest Lawn looking for answers and caught up with the Vice President of the business who apologized.

“Obviously we did not do a good job communicating here," said Frank Milles. " I’m not sure entirely why the dates were changed. Really it doesn’t matter. The fact is somebody went and cleaned the cemetery, which is our policy and which we do every year, and they did not do it on the dates that were publicized. That’s a big mistake. We made a mistake.”

FOX59 asked Milles which items had to be removed during cleaning and which could stay?

He replied, "I’d have to look at our policy for that particular cemetery to see what we’ve done in the past. But again, if something is looking old or worn or dated, it will probably get removed, even if it’s on the top (of the headstone).”

He promised that he would set a permanent schedule for cleaning and that it would be publicized to all families so that they could have time to collect their important tokens.


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