Families upset after cemetery removes infant memorials

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CONWAY, Ark. — Cemetery cleanup goes too far for some grieving families who found memorials removed from their infant’s graves.

Lawn crews picked up trinkets left at the Innocence Garden, which is part of Crestlawn Cemetery in Conway. The cleanup follows cemetery rules, which only allow flower vases attached to a grave during mowing season. Parents say that many of the items have been out all summer without issue.

“For those things to be gone without warning literally feels like it is taking my child. Those are the only things that we have for our children,” said Jamie Chandler, whose daughter is buried in the garden. “Why is it just now a problem? Why are we just now raking it off and treating it as it’s trash?”,

Landscapers piled up everything from small toys, pacifiers, angel figurines to flower vases, all left on or by headstones. Parents say several items were damaged or missing.

Roller-McNutt Funeral Home says those objects are a safety hazard, and the mowing time regulations as well as all policies are stated in the contract families sign.

“We would never want to steal a family’s grief, memorialization is what we stand for,” said Roller-McNutt Marketing Coordinator Justin Lowery. “While we understand and appreciate the significance of being able to leave items that may be very personal on a loved ones final resting place, those items become dangers when they for example strike a lawnmower blade.”

Lowery says the funeral home tried to remind families of the policy by posting on their Facebook page in April and also putting an ad in the local paper.

“We do our absolute best to let families know mowing season is coming,” Lowery said. “We would not be able to send an e-mail, because we do not have an e-mail address for everybody in that family.”

Parents like Chandler say they’d volunteer to give families reminders during mowing times.

She’s also questioning why there have been exceptions since some items weren’t removed from graves in the main cemetery.

“There’s really no rhyme or reason to it and there’s no respect,” Chandler said.

Chandler and several other parents plan to meet with management Tuesday. All sides say they’re looking for resolution that won’t cause any more pain.

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