A Kingston cemetery removed items left on gravestones by loved ones, leaving the items in piles away from the graves for their owners to collect. These removals have prompted an uproar on social media.
On Monday, Nikki Sherboneau wrote on Facebook that she was “sickened” by the Cataraqui Cemetery’s decision to remove the items. This post was shared over 650 times.
Steven Laidlaw contacted CKWS to say that his wife’s mother is buried in the Cataraqui Cemetery.
“She had two small solar butterfly lights taken,” Laidlaw said. “She has a hard time going to her mom’s grave even after all these years, so we wouldn’t have known otherwise. I would have gone up to get them.”
According to Craig Boals, cemetery operations director, the clearing of the items was necessary for safety and maintenance of the heritage property, which has been open since 1850.
“Artificial flowers during the growing season are not permitted — they have wires and they get caught in lawn mowers and they blow around creating a maintenance problem,” said Boals.
“Items also left at grave sites that interfere with the weed trimmers pose risk for damage, injury, breaking equipment and possibly damaging headstones.”
Although Cataraqui Cemetery has cleaned off grave sites in the past, and there are signs posted around the property warning that items will be removed by April 30, Boals admitted that the cemetery staff did do things differently this year.
“Whereas in the past, we’ve done section by section, or may not have been as diligent as in other years — this year was the decision to apply, go through the entire cemetery, collect those items and place them here so families at least have a chance to come and get them.”
Boals said the clean sweep of the entire cemetery was done because the cemetery had received complaints in the past that certain sections had items removed when others didn’t.
At this point, the items are lying in wait behind the cemetery office for those who left them to come and collect. Boals said the items have been sorted through, divided by section and labelled by name so that they would be easy to identify.
Although Boals says he believes the cemetery has been sensitive to the feelings of those who left items at the grave, many of the hundred-odd comments on Sherboneau’s Facebook post disagree.
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