Families say the feel violated following spring cleanup at Northland cemetery

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some families feel violated after a Northland cemetery removed precious keepsakes, flowers and crosses from their loved ones’ gravesites and placed them in a pile behind a shed.

“I just felt kind of torn up and violated,” said Jane Jackson, who lost her husband of 32 years to cancer two years ago. “How could they go in and take away your loved one’s sentimental things?”

Jackson said at first she couldn’t find the flag, cross and flowers she had placed near her husband’s headstone at the Terrace Park Funeral Home and Cemetery; but soon she found them among hundreds of other items in a pile behind a shed on the cemetery’s property.

“I felt kind of like the cemetery really didn’t have any respect for the dead,” she said.

The cemetery, which used to be called Mount Moriah Terrace Park Cemetery, got new ownership last year. Mathew Forastiere is now the cemetery’s VP of Operations.

“We did notify many families,” he told FOX 4. “We had signs posted at both entrances of the cemetery, for more than six weeks.”

Forastiere said decorations were removed from every gravesite as part of a bi-annual cleanup.

“It’s part of a beautification process that prepares the cemetery for the season,” he explained, “so that the cemetery can be a beautiful and serene place for all the families that we serve.”

He said the items were placed behind a shed, rather than thrown away, so families could come claim them. Still, he understands why some were upset.

“Oh, absolutely, without question, I understand,” he said. “This is a very emotional situation.”

In the future, Forastiere said the cemetery will post signs and send out letters to let all families know that a bi-annual cleanup is coming. It’s a change Jackson said will help preserve the final resting place for the man she loved most.

“Just peace of mind, it just helps me get through,” she said of visiting her husband’s gravesite.

The cemetery said it will have two major cleanups a year in which every item left on a gravesite will be removed. Those happen in early March and late September. There will also be mini-cleanups one week after each major holiday to take down any holiday decorations.

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