Elmhurst Cemetery's cleaning up of grave decorations caught the attention and anger of the loved ones of those buried there after photos were circulated showing the items in piles over the weekend.
The cemetery responded on Sunday by explaining there is a policy of cleaning up the graves due to some of the decorations becoming unsightly after a while and possibly being tripping hazards.
But the policy of cleaning up gravesite decorations seems pretty standard practice for other local cemeteries.
Larry Yonish, the Director of Family Services at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Joliet, said cleanup of their graves starts Oct. 1 of each year. The reason for this is mostly for vases they have as part of the grave markers that loved ones can leave flowers in. During the winter, grounds crew workers invert the vases to protect them from the cold and then put them back in place for the spring when cleanup for the warm months begins April 1.
They usually don't have to worry about cleaning up real flowers because deer tend to eat them, but the cemetery does make sure to keep valuable items for loved ones to retrieve later.
“Anything that's valuable, we go ahead and collect,” Yonish said.
The Diocese of Joliet Catholic Cemeteries uses a similar policy and has it posted on its website.
“Our sacred grounds are maintained on a regular basis during the growing season for the best appearance of your loved one's gravesite and the cemetery,” the policy states. “Items are removed when they become unsightly, withered, or if they fail to comply with size and/or material limitations.”
The policy also states the diocese wishes to be as sensitive as possible of loved ones expressing grief, but it goes on to explain that for both fall and spring cleaning, all items are removed and disposed of. It warns anyone who left items to retrieve them before March 1 in the spring and October 1 in the fall.
The diocese runs Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Joliet and Resurrection Cemetery in Romeoville.