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A grave disturbance

Frustration from concrete pouring at Maple Hill Cemetery's babyland area brought to city council

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 3:15 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 3:16 p.m. CST

The pain of losing a child is unimaginable, but having a child's burial place disturbed is almost unthinkable.

That's what happened to the babyland, or infant, area at Maple Hill Cemetery.

During a Nov. 20 Osceola City Council meeting, the council was informed the shrubbery was removed and a concrete path had been poured over the head stones that had been there for more than 50 years at the cemetery's babyland area.

A large crowd of people who had been impacted by the concrete at the cemetery came to the meeting to protest what had been done to their deceased infant's graves.

Concrete

The rules and regulations for the cemetery were read at the meeting. In summary, concrete memorials aren't allowed at the cemetery because of the life span of concrete. It also states stone or other enclosures about the grave aren't allowed.

Osceola City Administrator/Clerk Ty Wheeler said the issue of the gravestones first came about in 2009, and it was brought to the park and recreation board's attention from another family who had a headstone at the cemetery.

"The idea, though, was to take those headstones that were sunken into the ground and bring them up and set them in a concrete foundation as a preservation technique," Wheeler said.

The Aug. 15, 2011, minutes of the Osceola Park and Recreation board were brought to the council's attention.

Those minutes were read to the council, "The north babyland area has been poured and stones set. This is a heart-shaped concrete walkway replacing the dry and dying bushes."

Upset

The biggest issue from the crowd was the people who had bought those lots for their infants were not notified of what was going to happen to the gravestones.

One complaint was some the headstones that had concrete weren't originally sinking and heart-shaped hedges that had been removed were there to "cocoon" the babies.

Another concern is the concrete makes it more difficult for the families to recognize or memorialize their children with flowers.

"I think the courteous thing is to have contacted them before we did it," Mayor Fred Diehl said.

A murmur of agreement went through the audience.

"I'm dumbfounded, to be honest with you," he added.

"That ground is sacred," said JoAnne McCann. "We paid for those lots and those monuments, and they shouldn't have been disturbed."

Later, McCann said, "The monuments were six to eight inches above the ground and now all you see is just the name and the top of monument, and I don't like that, either. That's not right."

A comment was made from an audience member that people shouldn't have to walk on the concrete just to look at the names on the stones and monuments.

Councilwoman Sarah Truitt said it was important to apologize to the people affected at Maple Hill Cemetery.

"I can't talk because I have a new baby, but I would be upset," Truitt said as her voice choked and tears came to her eyes.

Fix the situation

One question to the council during the meeting was who paid for the concrete.

Wheeler said the cemetery has a perpetual repair fund. It's a fund that generates interest every year and that interest money can be used for capital-improvement projects for the cemetery.

The park and recreation board is in charge of management and operations of the cemetery. The park and recreation board is appointed by the city council.

"They should have a reprimand, as far as I'm concerned," McCann said.

A motion was made and approved for city staff to approach the families and try to work out a solution. A railing or fence was an idea brought forth to the council.

Councilman David Walkup said he wanted to see a report in as soon as possible.

"And I'd like to just say publicly, we're very sorry," Diehl said.

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