Grieving Families Angered By Cemetery Rule

By: Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

CRANE - Imagine visiting a loved one's grave site only to find that the flowers and items you left behind had been removed. It's happening at the Crane Cemetery and cemetery employees are just enforcing decade old rules, but some families think it's racially motivated.

"Wind chimes, flowers, bears, crosses; they took all of that," Estella Cardona said. "Some of that cost money, but besides the money, there was stuff there that reminded us of her."

Cardona's niece's grave used to have gifts and crosses, but now it's bare after cemetery employees removed the items.

"From a maintenance point of view, it's a lot easier to clean up," Park Supervisor Todd Seabourn, said. "It takes a lot less time to trim around the monuments, mow and what not."

The employees took all the items that did not follow the rules and put them behind the main office. Each item was labeled so families could retrieve them later if they wanted.

Cemetery rules and regulations say only flowers and objects attached to the monument are allowed.

When Cardona and other's went to Commissioners to complain, they say the county judge said some Hispanic grave sites looked "cluttered."

"We're Hispanics, we believe that by coming and putting gifts and flowers and stuff out helps us remember our loved ones," Cardona said. "To us, it's pretty."

She feels Hispanics are being targeted.

"Because it's mostly Hispanics who have flowers, who have crosses, who have bears," she said. "It's mostly Hispanics."

The County says it's about keeping the cemetery neat, not race.

Still, other people are angry.

Ina Wheeler found the flowers she put on her husbands grave with the pile of other items.

"I was really mad," Wheeler said. "I'm still mad about it."

She and other's say they didn't know about the decade old rules, and she believes the County should have warned them before cleaning house.

"That's the part they maybe should have put in the paper to kind of for warn them I think," Seabourn said. "Hindsight is 20/20."

Now both sides are hoping to find a way to compromise, and once more make this a place of peace and rest.