GREENLAWN GRIEF Removal of ‘extras’ irks cemetery visitors

Published 12:01 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Darlene Moseley simply wants to have a marker to remember her father when she visits his burial site at Greenlawn Gardens Cemetery.

It used to be a few lavender flowers hanging from a shepherd’s hook, but those and other ornaments have been taken up as part of the 43-acre cemetery’s makeover.

Plant hangers, trellises and such won’t do anymore, however, as ongoing renovations at the sprawling cemetery have thrown Moseley and others for a loop.

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“The reason I put one up was because we have a lot of family members,” Moseley said. “They had hundreds of hooks out here.”

Six to seven dozen shepherd’s hooks and other ornaments have been laid against the cemetery’s maintenance shed since late January, said Greenlawn owner Harry Sharp, who said it’s a follow-up to letters outlining which accoutrements were not allowed. The letters were mailed in November to about 1,000 lot owners, with about a third being returned as undeliverable for various reasons, he said.

One copy left in a drop box near the entrance lists the “can’ts” as statues, figurines, toys, dolls, pictures, clothing apparel, birdhouses, glass and ceramic flower containers, unauthorized shrubs and other plant material, outlines made of brick, stone, rubber, plastic, or plants, chairs, trellises, shepherd’s hooks and benches. Rules and regulations have banned the items from cemetery grounds for years, but were not enforced by the previous ownership, Sharp said.

Sharp took over the former Green Acres Memorial Park last fall from the state after managing it for 18 months as a state-appointed receiver while the Secretary of State’s Office looked into the former owner’s finances. More than $375,000 was determined missing from the cemetery’s pre-need trust account, which forced hundreds of people to pay a second time for markers and other merchandise purchased originally several years beforehand.

Sharp has pledged more stringent upkeep of the grounds, and has envisioned a mausoleum being part of the landscape at some point in the future. Calls to the cemetery will continue to lead to a general message box until a new office building under construction is complete, Sharp said.

“We just want to make it a beautiful place for everyone,” Sharp said of the perpetual care cemetery opened in 1955. “The whole idea of this type of cemetery is to have open space, to create a vista. It’s more attractive than it was two years ago.”

The longstanding cemetery policy allows bronze markers on a granite base with one flower vase, Sharp said, with a second marker available with the permission of management.

Moseley’s father, Herman C. Barnes, died in 1979. Lots are also owned by her mother, Margaret Barnes, of Delta, and other relatives.

Moseley’s sister, Barbara Brooks, said the two found out by word of mouth about all the hooks being removed and cast aside.

“We didn’t know about any of this,” Brooks said. “They didn’t tell us.”

Whether ridding the grounds of flower hangers in the name of aesthetics, she just doesn’t get the point in taking up the lone “special symbol” that marked her father’s grave.

“It was just disrespectful, the way it was done,” Moseley said.