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Board may relax rules on memorabilia at grave sites

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POSTED December 9, 2008 9:12 p.m.
The East Union Cemetery Association Board may consider modifying the rules regarding the placement of memorabilia and other items at grave sites.
“Maybe that’s something that the board can discuss,” said board president Bill Good in response to a woman who complained about the restrictions that were recently enforced regarding the placement of flowers and other mementoes at loved ones’ graves.
“I feel like I  have the right to take flowers anytime I want to my husband’s grave,” an emotional Isabel Franco said at the board meeting Monday night.
Her daughter Maria said the same thing, that she should be able to visit her father’s grave on his birthday and leave flowers.
The Francos were not the only ones who brought up that issue at the meeting, which included complaints about the removal of all memorabilia from the graves during the Nov. 6 cleanup at the cemetery when more than 100 volunteers came out to help. Those items ended up stolen late last week which angered and upset some of the people even more.
At the meeting, Good read the official directive from the board dated Sept. 24, 2008 concerning the “placement of flowers, statues, vases, and other memorabilia at gravesites.”
Addressed “to whom it may concern,” the announcement stated that following the layoff of the cemetery’s two caretakers due to lack of funds, the board will be enforcing the rules and regulations that were adopted in November 1976.
The November 1976 regulations specifically “forbid the placement of any item on a flat headstone grave at any time.” However, in September the board also voted “to allow flowers to be placed on graves five times a year: Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Christmas and to remain there until the next mowing days. No other items shall be placed on any grave during those holidays.”
The ruling goes on to say that anything left on grave sites on days other than those mentioned above will be removed and that the cemetery will not be responsible for any items that are damaged or destroyed.
By reading the official statement from the September meeting, Good was also making a public response to erroneous charges made by several people who called him and the cemetery office accusing the Friends of the East Union Cemetery of masterminding the removal of the items from the graves. Good said it was the board which made the decision and the Friends volunteers simply stepped forward to help and get the job done.
In response to Franco’s assertion that she should be able to visit her husband’s grave and leave flowers there anytime she wants or on special days such as his birthday and their wedding anniversary, the board said that may not be easy to accommodate since not everybody has the same birthdays or wedding anniversaries. However, it may be possible to include “specific days” that everyone can observe such as Father’s Day.
“We’re trying to make the cemetery look decent. We’re not the only ones that have these regulations,” Good said.
He went as far as suggesting to those who complained about the stringent rules to call other cemeteries and find out what their rules are. Some cemeteries allow flowers only twice a year and that they cannot put anything else on the graves, he said. At another cemetery, no statues are allowed at all.
“All we’re asking for is patience,” added board vice president Don Salmon.
Other announcements made at the board meeting:
• the recent Pizza Night fund-raiser at the cemetery hosted by Guido’s Pizza raised $833.
• another fund-raiser, this time a Bingo Night at the FESM Hall hosted by the Assyrian-Armenian Cultural Center, will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 7, with the organization donating all of the proceeds to the cemetery.
• the board will be meeting with Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) “as soon as possible after the first of the year” to see what the congressman can do to help the cemetery.
• the board also will be meeting with the Stockton attorney who agreed to provide pro bono services to the cemetery.
The cemetery has been hit with money problems since this summer when the state Cemetery and Funeral Bureau seized all of its endowment care funds and operating money. At the same time, the state revoked the association’s Certificate of Operation, or business license which prohibited the association to sell any burial plots. The new board, which is made up by a few from the old board and several new members, are working with the state to get the cemetery back on an even financial footing.
In the meantime, the Friends of the East Union Cemetery was formed which has been spearheading the continued maintenance of the cemetery using donated funds and the services of kind volunteers.
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