Newark residents continue dispute with cemetery over cemetery decoration policy

NEWARK, Ohio (WCMH) – A Newark group is in a fight with Cedar Hill Cemetery management over cemetery decorations.

The group plans to take legal action against the cemetery and the city of Newark, which owns and operates it.

“I have family here. I have a brother buried there. Nephews, grandmother. I spend a lot of time here,” Karen Hunt-Mitchell said.

She had been visiting the cemetery frequently for a long time, but last year she cut back on her visits.

“This is a cemetery. This is where you come to grieve, come on, leave us alone. We just want to be left alone. We just want a little peace. '' Hunt-Mitchell said.

“At first I just took walks every day,” Hunt-Mitchell said. “And I walk here all the time. Sometimes I come here several times a day and walk. I've been told I need to go walk. So this is a safe place to come. Now I come from time to time.'' It's different, it's not the same.

About a year ago, in April of this year, current cemetery caretaker Chance Patznick put up a sign warning against the removal of decorations that did not meet cemetery standards. Throughout the cemetery we could see flowers, bird feeders, memorials, night lights on headstones, and all sorts of other memorabilia. All of them should have been removed.

At one point, several people who frequent the cemetery said they found trash cans full of people's ornaments.

“The wind blew them away,” Hunt-Mitchell said. “Didn't you know? They were there. Yes, the wind blew. Now, when they were taken in the summer, I found them and came to get them. But when they came back at Christmas… When I came, I…

Some people removed their decorations, while others did not. Last month, cemeteries that were “in violation” of the rules received letters from administrators in Ziploc bags pinned to the ground near the graves. It was a warning that if the decorations were not removed by April 1st, they would be removed by staff. Numerous complaints were made to cemetery officials and city officials, including Mayor Jeff Hall.

“My brother passed away in 2015. When my father bought these properties, he obviously bought them with the impression that you could decorate them,” said Bridget, who visited her brother and father, who were sleeping side by side in Cedar Hill. Fauty says. ,He said. “And that's what his whole life was about: We come here and we grass, we eat, we mow. We take care of it. And this is where he lived at peace. So when my dad passed away, I obviously continued that tradition. ”

Foti has seen many people mourn their loved ones at Cedar Hill Cemetery. She understands the staff's desire to keep the cemetery clean and attractive to visitors.

“I want this place to look pretty, but I think it's terrible to put Winnie the Pooh on a baby's grave or a nightlight on someone's child's grave.” Fauty said.

“A little wooden cross in front of the grave. What? A wooden cross? Now, it's over. Enough is enough. Enough is enough,” Hunt-Mitchell said.

The cemetery has a section dedicated to deceased newborns and infants. This area is on a ring of grass almost in the middle of everything else. Foti became emotional as she talked about her parents, who came to mourn their child. Some of them cannot afford a headstone.

“Some babies aren't even marked,” Fauty said. “Their mom and dad are going to come here and look at the grass. And where is their child sleeping? Where did you know? That's the last part, the last time they saw the baby. A place. And now they'll never see it.”

When NBC4 spoke with Patznick about the initial implementation of the policy. April 2023 She said the decorations are causing problems with maintenance.

Fauty, who is spearheading the lawsuit against the city and cemetery, said she doesn't understand that the reason for removing the decorations is a “safety” issue.

“This is to weed the surrounding area. [She said] It was dangerous,” Fauty said. There have never been any reports of accidents involving weed eating or grass cutting. There is no answer. And that's what people always ask. I don't know why. I can't imagine that. Why is it meaningless? ”

Fauty, Hunt-Mitchell and a group of other concerned citizens hope to continue mourning their loved ones as they have for decades past.

“I think I would just compromise and work with people and not just throw white flags with Ziploc bags over everyone's graves,” Fauty said.

Hunt-Mitchell said she is grieving and wants to walk the grounds, feed the birds and squirrels and find peace.

“Just have some compassion,” Hunt-Mitchell said. “If you have nothing, have mercy. I don't believe mercy doesn't exist. I know they say let them die and bury their dead. But some of us, here Some people feel at peace with it. We just want peace.”

NBC4 reached out to Mayor Jeff Hall and Director of Public Safety David Rose but did not receive a response. Cedar Hill Cemetery coach Chance Patznick responded Thursday night but declined to comment.

https://www.nbc4i.com/news/local-news/newark/newark-residents-continue-dispute-with-cemetery-over-gravesite-decoration-policy/ Newark residents continue dispute with cemetery over cemetery decoration policy

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