Families of buried loved ones demand answers after grave site clean-up

GRANITE CITY, Ill. - Some families of buried loved ones at a southern Illinois cemetery are demanding answers. They said groundkeepers at St. John's Cemetery cleared off flowers, decorations, and other items from grave sites without telling them.

One after another, upset families arrived at the cemetery Thursday evening. Many of them shocked to see that items left on grave sites to remember their loved ones were removed and thrown into piles scattered all over the cemetery.

"These are our family members," said Kim Mefford. "They had no business coming out here, stripping it bare naked."

Frustrated families said that they contacted the cemetery to try and get some answers. They said the cemetery told them they should've received a letter.

"I didn't get a letter," said Julie Gibbs. "The only letter I get is around Thanksgiving for their ugly grave blankets."

"If they had a heart and soul they would've contacted us, I never got a letter either," said Mefford.

Other families who recently lost a loved one said that this was the last thing they needed during their time of grief.

"I guess they don't care," said Rhonda Henry. "But I do want to know why. I think we deserve to know why as families."

Fox 2 News checked around for any posted notices that could explain reasons for the clean-up. A printed note containing rules and regulations posted outside of the cemetery's office door states that removal would occur between March 1 and March 15 to prepare the grounds for the summer.

"Well they should have told us what they were going to do and give people time to come out here and get their stuff," Mefford said.

St. John Cemetery issued this statement:

"The St. John Cemetery has been serving the Quad City area for over one hundred-fifty years. The founders of the cemetery set a high standard of care, compassion and understanding to assist families during their time of grief. The cemetery management and staff have always strived to meet or exceed the standards established by those who managed the cemetery before us.

In regard to your report on the spring clean-up, we did not meet the high standards we strive to achieve, or to adequately communicate with the families and loved ones of those people who are interred in the cemetery. Cemetery rules clearly state when the spring clean-up will occur.

The cemetery management and staff sincerely apologize to everyone for not adequately informing you of the annual spring and fall clean-ups. We have begun a complete review of our policies to address this issue, and we will be reaching out to families of those interred to update our contacts. It was never our intent to cause stress or to upset anyone. Please accept our sincere apologies as we move forward serving the families who have entrusted their loved ones to our care."