News

Some unhappy with push for tidiness at Waterford Cemetery

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Sharon Thomson of Villa Nova was disturbed to learn recently that a decoration on a family headstone at Greenwood Cemetery in Waterford may have been removed because someone deemed it unsightly. The Greenwood Cemetery board of directors has served notice in recent weeks that rules regarding tidiness will be tightened up in the months ahead. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

Sharon Thomson of Villa Nova was disturbed to learn recently that a decoration on a family headstone at Greenwood Cemetery in Waterford may have been removed because someone deemed it unsightly. The Greenwood Cemetery board of directors has served notice in recent weeks that rules regarding tidiness will be tightened up in the months ahead. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

WATERFORD - 

The Greenwood Cemetery board is cracking down on certain mourning practices and the effect they have on the graveyard’s appearance and upkeep.

The ways families remember loved ones and the gestures they make are usually poignant and always heart-felt. But some are also unattractive, potentially dangerous, and increase the cost of maintaining the cemetery.

The board and its staff have run afoul of a Villa Nova woman who is offended that two flower arrangements she placed on headstones at Greenwood have gone missing.

Sharon Thomson has been told they could have blown off in the wind, were vandalized, or were thrown in the garbage because they had faded and were deemed unsightly. The possibility a groundskeeper may have plucked them off and tossed them into the garbage has left her angry and upset.

“I have loved ones in Oakwood Cemetery in Simcoe and I’ve never had a problem there,” Thomson said this week. “It seems in Waterford that whenever someone new takes over they do enforcement in their own way. I don’t put up garbage. I do things tastefully. And I am well aware when something needs to be replaced.”

The superintendent at Greenwood Cemetery is Waterford Coun. Harold Sonnenberg.

Soon after he was elected to Norfolk council in 2000, Sonnenberg became an outspoken critic on how the new Norfolk was maintaining Greenwood. He supported taking responsibility for Greenwood away from the county and vesting it in an independent board similar to the cemetery board serving Port Dover.

The care and upkeep of Greenwood has become an issue for the board and staff in recent months. Families and individuals have many ways of dressing up headstones, some of which present a liability hazard, are unattractive, and make it difficult and more expensive to keep up the grounds.

Wednesday, Sonnenberg said he has had families reject plots in Greenwood because they don’t like how neighbouring families keep their headstones.

Sonnenberg has also heard of individuals who asked their families to refrain from decorating their headstones with anything plastic because it looks cheap. There have also been complaints at Greenwood about items and mementoes placed on graves that would qualify as litter in any other setting.

“Everyone grieves in their own way, but don’t bring trash into the cemetery,” Sonnenberg said Wednesday. “Don’t put a beer can on Uncle Joe’s grave just because he liked beer. Don’t leave behind an empty Tim Hortons cup just because they liked Tim Hortons coffee. What’s up with that?”

Sonnenberg estimates he has filled several dumpsters with headstone decorations that have become unsightly or have blown off into adjoining farm fields. He says the regulations governing Greenwood Cemetery authorize him to do so.

As a result of these concerns, the Greenwood board has notified the public that stricter enforcement of existing rules will be the norm after mid-November.

The cemetery board has run ads in recent weeks saying that “decorations, memorabilia and various plantings surrounding monuments at the Waterford Greenwood Cemetery have proliferated. This creates a danger to groundskeepers and visitors, increases cost, and obstructs access for good maintenance around all monuments and markers.”

The ad goes on to say that the cemetery’s rules and regulations regarding care of plots “strictly prohibits and requires removal of every sort of plantings and decorations on grass.”

Larry Korczak, chair of the cemetery board, says items such as beer bottles and other trinkets could become dangerous projectiles if hit with a lawn mower.

Korczak added that the contractor with the grass-cutting contract in Greenwood has said it will cost more to service the cemetery if staff have to make intricate cuts around items stuck in the ground at the base of headstones.

“We’re doing our due diligence,” Korczak said. “The way courts award judgments today, we’re trying to reduce our liability. We’re not trying to be heavy-handed.”

The Greenwood board will allow containers holding flowers at headstones from May 1 to Nov. 1 and one week after Decoration Day. Flowers and other headstone decorations are allowed for Remembrance Day and for several days after.

Due to their popularity, solar lights will also be allowed in the ground immediately adjacent to headstones on a permanent basis.