People looking for answers after Lakeview Memorial cemetery cleanup

People looking for answers after Lakeview Memorial cemetery cleanup
(Source: KLTV News)

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - A cemetery in Longview is addressing claims from upset families that flowers, crosses, and personal mementos were thrown away during a recent cemetery-wide cleaning.

“I was appalled,” said Amelia Heatherly, whose grandmother has been buried at Lakeview Memorial Gardens since 1995. “I couldn’t believe that for somebody who was in the profession of providing comfort and care and being compassionate, could do this without the little notice they decided to do.”

Signs were posted at the entrances to Lakeview Memorial Garden of the cemetery notifying families and loved ones that it would hold a cemetery clean-up day on Wednesday, Feb. 26. The cemetery said the signs were posted for several weeks ahead of the clean-up day.

“When I come to visit my parents, the last thing I’m doing is looking at signs,” said Linda Gafford.

Lakeview released a statement on Monday that it also bought newspaper ads in the weeks before the scheduled clean-up day. Lakeview added that ‘no personal mementos’ were discarded, but were collected and saved for families to pick up at its maintenance department.

A video sent to KLTV by a viewer shows what appeared to be flowers, crosses, and other items collected from gravestones bagged and piled into a dumpster on Lakeview Memorial Gardens’ cemetery grounds. Another set of photos appeared to show dozens of similar items strewn across the ground.

A video sent to KLTV by a viewer shows what appeared to be flowers, crosses, and other items collected from gravestones bagged and piled into a dumpster on Lakeview Memorial Gardens’ cemetery grounds. Another set of photos appeared to show dozens of similar items strewn across the ground. (Source: Linda Gafford, viewer)
A video sent to KLTV by a viewer shows what appeared to be flowers, crosses, and other items collected from gravestones bagged and piled into a dumpster on Lakeview Memorial Gardens’ cemetery grounds. Another set of photos appeared to show dozens of similar items strewn across the ground. (Source: Linda Gafford, viewer) (Source: Linda Gafford)

“We went up there and talked to Andy, the manager,” said Leigh Tatum, who has family buried in the cemetery. "I told him it was sad to see little children’s toys, pictures of people and crosses just thrown in the dumpster.

“He said he realized it, it was a learning process for them, they’ve learned a lot, and they understand that people are upset, and they’re going to do everything they can to justify what has been done.”

Many families did not see the notices and had no warning before personal mementos were removed.

“I found out through Facebook from another friend of mine who has family buried here, that they had came in and removed all the flowers,” said Linda Gafford, a Hallsville resident whose parents are buried in Lakeview.

“All they did was remove flowers. They’ve got a nasty, moldy fountain with green water in it; the pathway is full of grass; nothing is ever weed-eated... all they did was take flowers [and other items.]," she added.

Lakeview Memorial Garden was empty Monday, days after hundreds of crosses, flowers, and other mementos were discovered bagged in a dumpster or strewn about the ground. (Source: Linda Gafford, viewer)
Lakeview Memorial Garden was empty Monday, days after hundreds of crosses, flowers, and other mementos were discovered bagged in a dumpster or strewn about the ground. (Source: Linda Gafford, viewer) (Source: Linda Gafford)

Gafford said she wished Lakeview would have done more to make families aware of its plans.

“Obviously, I’m not the only person who did not see [the signs],” she said. "Their ad in the newspaper -- nobody takes the newspaper anymore, at least nobody I know does.

“I don’t have their website up on my favorites, so there’s no reason for me to go to their website to look to see. They have my name, they have my phone number, they probably have my email from when I buried my parents here.”

The full statement from Lakeview Memorial Gardens:

Our commitment is to provide a tranquil place for our client families who come to our cemeteries to pay respect to their loved ones. Over time, items that have been left behind have encroached on the final resting places of other people and present a safety issue for our grounds crews. No personal mementoes were discarded; they have been collected and saved for families to pick up at our maintenance department. We have made every effort to notify visitors of the planned cemetery clean up date of Feb. 26: There have been signs at every cemetery entrance for two months notifying client families that a cemetery clean up was scheduled. In addition, we ran ads in the Longview News Journal for several weeks to make the public aware of the cemetery clean up, and posted a notice to our website. Per our policy, trinkets that are left behind should be able to fit in vases at a loved one’s location of internment out of respect for the more than 20,000 people whose final resting place is Lakeview Memorial Gardens.
Lakeview Memorial Gardens/Memory Park

According to people at the cemetery on Monday, new items that had been placed since the cleanup day were still being removed.

Andrew Wagley, the general manager of the cemetery, said the specific date is not yet set, but the cemetery cleanup will be an annual occurrence.

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