A surprise decision to remove keepsakes and trinkets from graves in Langley Lawn Cemetery and dump them in a corner is condemned as disrespectful by the families of loved ones buried at the township cemetery.
Robbie Franks and his wife, Devon Franks, made the discovery when they stopped by the cemetery at 4393 208th St. in Brookswood to visit his younger brother, Richard.
Franks said the family left memorabilia at Richard’s grave, including imitation cheeseburgers, Richard’s favorite meal and a chain with a cross his sister left behind.
“It’s all been taken,” Franks said.
He and Devon found some of the items in a pile with memorabilia from other graves, but the chain and the cross are missing.
“My sister is devastated,” Franks said.
Franks called it “the most disrespectful thing I have ever seen in my 43 years of life”.
In the seven years Richard was buried at Langley Lawn, “nobody ever touched anything,” Franks angrily told Black Press.
He said the measurement was taken between his previous visit on May 15 and Friday.
Other families had similar reactions.
When Christina Skingsley saw an article online about the removals, she discovered that everything left on her father’s grave was gone, including a heart-shaped ornament she had left over Christmas.
“It said he was the best dad ever, and I was glad I had him,” Skingsley recalled.
“In over 20 years (since his father was buried) they haven’t once touched the trinkets that we put in there. It’s always been the flowers (they remove).
On the day he left, other families were searching through the discarded items, trying to find what had been removed, Skingsley said.
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“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’s been there for 51 years, and that never happened,” Johannesson told the Langley Advance Times.
“We left some things behind. They all left. Everything is in a heap.
On Mother’s Day, all of the memories at the graves of her family members were still in place, Johannesson said.
“If we had known the township had decided to throw them away as trash, we could have brought them home that day and kept them safe,” Johannesson said.
“It’s so sad and heartbreaking.”
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In fact, family heirlooms were removed from all three township-operated cemeteries — Langley Lawn, Murrayville and Fort Langley — according to an unsigned statement released in response to a Black Press query.
He said that “a significant number of flowers, ornaments and decorations had accumulated over time, including several broken or deteriorated items, posing an increasingly difficult and dangerous condition for the staff of interview and the public.
Notices of impending removal were posted at cemetery entrances and online, the statement said, and promised that staff were “committed to providing additional and more detailed information, prior to any future removals required.”
“When I go to pay my respects, I’m not looking for signs,” Franks said.
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