Woodland officials try to apologize

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Woodland Cemetery board meetings are probably not well-attended affairs, but Thursday night’s drew a standing-room only crowd, with people even huddling on the porch outside the office, unable to get in inside.

A couple dozen angry family members showed up to protest the removal of urns, eternal flames, statues and other memorials that were recently taken off their loved ones’ graves

with no prior notice.

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“I had three urns taken from my family’s site,” Rita Wilds of Ironton

said. “I don’t know where they went. If anyone knows how much they cost, they wouldn’t have done it.”

Like many of the others, Wilds said her urns had been in place 45 years and her family had never been told they could not have the urns in place. To add insult to injury, Wilds said when she called to complain, someone in the cemetery office hung up on her.

Her sentiments were echoed by others who said not only were they upset by what happened to their memorials, they were appalled by what happened when they called the cemetery office to ask where their mementos had been taken.

“I called and I was treated so horribly,” Linda Williams, of Portsmouth, said.

Lisa Irish, also of Ironton, said two concrete planters were dug up from her family’s gravesite — planters that had been in place for decades and were set in concrete.

“As far as I’m concerned the cemetery stole them,” she said. “I’m looking for restitution.”

Board president Jerry Rowe said rules governing what is and is not allowed in the cemetery have been in place for years and are posted on signs at both back and front gates.

Rowe said people are given copies of the rules when they buy plots, although many in the room shook their heads and said this was not the case.

Rowe took responsibility for what had happened, saying he realizes now that the effort to enforce the rules should have been prefaced with some community notice.

“The only mistake is, we should have put an ad in the paper. Other cemeteries give 30 days to get stuff off the graves. I’m sorry it happened. If I had done that there wouldn’t be all this negative stuff. I’ll take the blame. I’m president of the board.”

Board member Richard Price suggested that in the future, perhaps concerned citizens could form an advisory board to work with the cemetery board and make sure similar situations do not arise in the future.