Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Loveland families mourn loss of precious keepsakes after cemetery cleanup

Pharrell Brown has been a regular visitor to Loveland Burial Park since 1995, when her 18-year-old daughter, Amy, died of a brain aneurysm.

After Amy’s unexpected death, Brown began taking care of her daughter’s grave, turning it into a place of rest and reflection for those close to Amy, including Amy’s younger daughter, Kylayne.

Brown put his granddaughter’s handprints in plaster and placed them on Amy’s grave when Killayne was about a year old. When Brown’s mother was buried nearby, Amy’s aunt, Kelly Couch, began collecting pennies corresponding to the family members’ birth years, placing them in an angel-shaped container next to their mother’s headstone. .

“I always felt comfortable going to that cemetery, because there were so many precious things that people cared about,” Brown said. “It never looked gaudy. It was comforting to know that there were so many loved ones that people cared about.”

Some things like handprints were present from 1995 till October this year.

On November 1st, Couch visited the cemetery and was surprised to find that decades of his memories had disappeared.

“I went out there and just went, ‘Oh my goodness,’ because everything on the graves was gone,” Couch said. “It felt like a slug in your stomach. I couldn’t believe it.”

When they contacted the cemetery run by the city, the family learned that the items had been collected during the city’s seasonal cleanup. They were told by the cemetery staff that there was nothing they could do to recover the items as they had already been thrown away.

“I said, ‘God have mercy on your soul, that’s Holy Land,'” Brown said. “My daughter has been there for 26 years, and nothing has ever been taken out of her grave. Now, I’m scared to take anything back from there.”

“This is my mother’s house, and this is where we come to visit her. And it was like someone came into his house and stole everything from it,” Couch said.

The fall cleanup of Loveland Burial Park has upset Brown’s family and others, as they say the workers went beyond the scope of the previous cleanup, long-decorated without notice and without tribute. abandoned graves.

A photo of the grave of Pharrell Brown’s daughter Amy Layne Brown at Loveland Burial Park before cemetery staff removed and disposed of decorations.

While the city’s park manager Dan Wildsen said the de facto policy during the cleanup is to leave items on graves in “well-kept” locations until those objects break or fall apart, Farrell and the others told their loved ones. The emphasis of the tombs was carefully maintained.

Wildson acknowledged that the cleanup, which was handled by a group of new city workers, had in some cases gone too far.

“I believe we were taking things we shouldn’t have taken, and I myself would take the blame for that,” he said. “We obviously thanked people for coming to us, and said they hadn’t seen a major cleaning like this in years. But I think the difference between a big cleaning and a cleaning that takes away people’s personal impact.” Is.”

He said he spoke personally to several people who had lost belongings in the cleanup, and was more likely to be contacted by other cemetery staff.

Loveland Burial Park typically conducts its seasonal cleaning in April and October, giving families a month’s notice in advance to remove artificial flowers and decorations from flat markers, as well as spoiled and out-of-season decorations from upright gravestones. after giving

Information about the cleanup was posted to the Reporter-Herald and social media ahead of time, though families said they either didn’t know about the cleanup or weren’t aware of the scope this time around.

Debbie Nichols was dealt an unpleasant blow last month when she found some things missing from her parents’ graves. Viewed from US 287, the graves of Glenn and May Hodges have been a way for their families since Glenn was laid to rest at Loveland Burial Park in 1999 and May was buried in 2015.

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“It’s been like our beacon,” Nichols said. “You went over there, and you looked for the shepherd’s hook, and there was mom and dad.”

Loveland families mourn loss of precious keepsakes after cemetery cleanup
Debbie Nichols reaches down to touch the graves of her mother and father at Loveland Burial Park on Friday, November 5, 2021. Nichols is upset that a shepherd’s hook and other items of sentimental value were removed from the gravestone during a recent city cleanup.

Nichols’ daughter, Meredith Nichols-Diller, remembered when she was younger and was driving past, telling friends that the shepherd’s hook was put up next to the graves that the family painted in red, Glenn and May’s favorite color. was painted, and decorated with garlands. Seasonal flowers and leaves.

“It will just catch your eye, and it will always give me good feelings,” Nichols-Diller said.

The solid steel hook stood as a visual reminder of Nichols’ parents and Nichols-Diller’s grandparents in the center of his hometown until October of this year.

“It’s all really disappointing,” Nichols said. “I remember when my mom and dad were standing there, and they chose that plot. Now, I’m thinking, do I really want to be buried there?”

Another person, Lisa Rosenhagen, said that a statue of the Virgin Mary that was more than a century old was removed from her mother’s grave along with a solar light and small trinkets.

The statue stood in Rosenhagen’s grandmother’s garden before it was in her mother’s house. When Rosenhagen contacted the cemetery about the statue, he told her about the cleaning and said that the head had fallen.

“It was made of concrete, so it would be nearly impossible to fall off, but it can be repaired,” she said. “I drive by the cemetery daily because I live in Loveland, and I’ve never seen it damaged.”

“I was really upset that they just left it to the cleaning crew’s discretion to do what they wanted. Some things were left on some graves, and other things weren’t, and that made me very angry,” she said.

Viladsen said that Parks and Recreation Department staff had been cut during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to employees from different areas of the department being turned over to cemetery roles. They may have been unfamiliar with how past cleaning operations were handled and how cleaning in practice differs from the letter of city rules.

“The new team probably didn’t know how the old team worked,” Viladson said. “Basically, without a lot of historical knowledge of how the cemetery operates, they were reading through the rules and regulations to see what their job was? What should they have done?”

In response to this year’s controversy, Wildsen said the department would change how the loved ones of those buried at Loveland Burial Park are notified of the cleanup, with yard signs placed throughout the cemetery shortly before the cleanup takes place. So people who come regularly know how to remove things ahead of time.

He said that objects placed on gravestones or markers should not be a problem, for example, fake flowers that have fallen. But if the items need to be removed as part of the cleanup, they will be stored for families to pick up later.

“I think that line blurred a little bit in terms of things on the headstone that weren’t in the way,” Wildson said. “We’re trying to put these things in place so that normally, what happened here doesn’t happen again.”

And he invited members of the public who have been adversely affected by the cleanup to call him at 970-962-2729.

Brown says he and others are considering raising the issue at an upcoming city council meeting, to let more people know what happened and to make sure no more tributes are lost at the graves. Go.

“As a mother, it feels like you still have a protective feeling over them, as if they were alive,” she said. “They didn’t have the right to do that.”

Loveland families mourn loss of precious keepsakes after cemetery cleanup
Pharrell Brown shows the area where angels and other sentimental objects are used to decorate the grave of her mother as her granddaughter, Amelie Jane Toussaint, 4, at Loveland Burial Park on Friday, November 5, 2021 plays in the background. Brown is upset that during a recent city cleanup, several items of sentimental value placed on the gravestones of her daughter and her mother were thrown away.

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