A surprise decision to remove mementos and trinkets from gravesites at the Langley Lawn Cemetery and dump them in a corner is being condemned as disrespectful by families of loved ones interred at the Township cemetery.
Robbie Franks and his wife, Devon Franks, made the discovery when they dropped by the cemetery at 4393 208th St. in Brookswood to visit his younger brother, Richard on Friday, May 20.
Franks said the family had left mementos on Richard’s gravesite, including some imitation cheeseburgers, Richard’s favourite meal, and a chain with a cross his sister had left.
“Everything was taken,” Franks said.
He and Devon found some of the items in a pile with mementos from other graves, but the chain and cross are missing.
“My sister is devastated,” Franks said.
Franks called it “the most disrespectful thing I have ever seen in all my 43 years of being alive.”
In the seven years that Richard has been interred at Langley Lawn, “no one has ever touched anything,” an angry Franks told the Langley Advance Times.
He said the action was taken sometime between his previous visit on May 15 and the Friday.
Other families had similar reactions.
When Christina Skingsley saw an online post about the removals, she discovered that everything left on her father’s gravesite was gone, including a heart-shaped ornament she left at Christmas.
“It said he was the best dad ever, and I was glad to have him,” Skingsley recalled.
“In 20-plus years (since her father was laid to rest), not once have they ever touched the trinkets we put there. It’s always been the flowers (they remove).”
On the day she went, other families were searching through the discarded items, trying to find what was removed, Skingsley said.
“There were people there, crying, searching, going through the pile,” Skingsley said.
Shirley Johannesson, whose father, Herbert Brent, mother Frances Brent, and sister Beverly Wright are at Langley Lawn, called it a “pure violation of our sacred space.”
“My dad has been there for 51 years, and this has never happened,” Johannesson told the Langley Advance Times.
“We left some things. They’re all gone. It’s all in a pile.”
On Mother’s Day, all of the mementos on her family members gravesites were still in place, Johannesson said.
“If we had known that the Township had decided to discard them like garbage, we could have brought them home that day and kept them safe,” Johannesson said.
“It’s just so sad and heart breaking.”
In fact, family mementos have been removed from all three cemeteries operated by the Township – Langley Lawn, Murrayville and Fort Langley – according to an unsigned statement issued in response to a Times Advance query.
It said “a significant number of flowers, adornments, and decorations had accumulated over time, including several broken or deteriorated items, posing an increasingly challenging and unsafe condition for maintenance staff and the public.”
Notices of the impending removal were put up at cemetery entrances and online, the statement claimed, and promised that staff were “committed to the provision of additional, more detailed information, in advance of any future necessary removals.”
“When I go to pay my respects, I’m not looking for signs,” Franks said.
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