Good Question: Why does a local cemetery remove wreaths from grave sites?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Why does a local cemetery remove personal items like wreaths from grave sites? Also, how do you ensure the items you place on your loved ones’ graves don’t get thrown in the trash?

Mike Cooper’s parents and brother are buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Lake Avenue in Rochester. When he went to visit them the day after Easter, he was surprised to discover that the personalized hand-crafted wreaths he and his family had made were missing.

“I just felt heartbreak immediately. I just felt like I let my family down,” Cooper said. “One thing is to put them down and pick them back up and the one time I didn’t get there fast enough. You know, they’re gone.”

He checked with the office, then he asked maintenance workers if they knew where he could find the wreaths. They pointed him to this.

“I pull up to the garbage and it was just a mountain of wreaths,” Cooper said. “Of wreaths, of toys, of candles, of a whole bunch of things that you could tell had special meaning to people that should not have been thrown away. And they were just in that pile like it was garbage.”

Holy Sepulchre allows winter decorations from November 15 to March 15. The wreath pick-up date changes from year to year, depending on when Easter falls and the weather. When Cooper visited, these signs were posted at the cemetery’s main entrances.

Holy Sepulchre’s executive director Cathy Vail says the pick-up date was also posted online and in the quarterly newsletter.

“For those visitors that are very, let’s say tech savvy, and go to our website or go to social media platforms, we have multiple notifications, we have pop-ups on our website, it’s been on Instagram at least 6 times, Facebook the same,” Vail said.

However, if you don’t regularly check the website, social media, or visit the grounds, you might miss the heads-up. Here’s the reason the cemetery removes items.

“Multiple reasons. One is definitely for the beautification of the cemetery,” Vail said. “Another problem that we have is safety. We’ve been having a lot of wind storms in Rochester lately and these wreaths are flying all over the place. So we do pick them up and we pride ourselves on the beautification of the cemetery land.”

Luckily, after sifting through the pile, Cooper and his family were able to find their missing wreaths.

“I couldn’t believe that we found it. I mean, the mountains of stuff that is there and we eventually found it, was great,” he said.

The executive director says that part of the reason the cemetery does not directly notify families with a call or an email is that the original owners of the lots aren’t always the same people who are placing items like wreaths on the graves.

If for some reason you cannot make it to the cemetery to remove your items before the clean-up date, you call to let the office know. Staff will work with you to hold your items until you are able to come and get them.

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