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Grief over graveside rules

Eternal Valley cracks down on decorations, tributes left at grave sites

Posted: July 31, 2009 10:04 p.m.
Updated: August 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Cruikshank and Logian visit their father's grave site.

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At least once a week, Placerita Canyon resident Mary Logian drives to the cemetery to spend time at her father’s grave.

Mitchell “Mickey” Logian was an avid coffee drinker, and sometimes she brings a cup and pours it over the Army veteran’s resting place.

Small wind chimes and a flag decorated his graveside, and Mary had arranged small stones in the shape of a heart around the nameplate on the grave.

Her father, who died at age 75 last September, is buried near a young pepper tree in the veterans’ section of Eternal Valley Memorial Park, at the top of the hill where a crisp American flag snaps in the breeze.

Several other of her family members are buried in the cemetery.

She’s just one among many people who have left mementos at the graves of loved ones — their place to pay respects or simply revisit memories.

So Mary Logian was caught off guard when she drove into the sprawling cemetery one day recently and noticed the rolling green hills of the cemetery were barren of any personal decorations.

Gone were the wind chimes, flags, teddy bears, Matchbox cars and myriad other trinkets left behind by grieving people at the graves of the roughly 32,000 people buried at Eternal Valley.

Then she noticed the signs.

White metal signs posted throughout the cemetery state that effective June 22, Eternal Valley only allows fresh-cut flowers in “approved vases” at graves.

Anything else is removed and kept in storage for two weeks.

“Everything was gone,” Logian said. “It was just a shock.”

The cemetery is owned by Houston-based Service Corp. International.

In an e-mail, company spokeswoman Jennifer Brandino wrote: “Gravesite decorations other than live flowers always have been prohibited at our cemetery. ... An attractive and serene environment can best be attained through uniformity of appearance throughout the grounds, which includes limitations on decorations.

“In addition, certain grave decorations may present safety hazards to our grounds workers, who operate mowers and other equipment, and (to) other visitors to the park.”

Logian got a bigger shock when she went to the storage area to claim her personal items.

The decorations are kept on an outside table behind the mortuary. On Tuesday, it was cluttered with small statues, crucifixes, candles and floral arrangements. Small American flags lay in the dirt under the table.

Logian said she couldn’t find any of her items there.

“People’s items were just thrown like a bunch of trash,” she said.

Eternal Valley General Manager Richard Steinmetz could not be reached for comment this week.

Brandino wrote that vases must be approved by the cemetery office, but they do not have to be purchased from Eternal Valley.

Logian said she was quoted a price of about $120 to purchase a vase from the cemetery.

Included in Eternal Valley’s 17-page handout of rules and regulations is a paragraph that states no boxes, shells, toys, glassware, sprinkling cans, receptacles or “similar items,” other than approved vases, can be placed by graves.

The policy applies to all of Service Corp.’s properties, spokeswoman Jennie Roberts wrote in an e-mail Thursday.

She explained that vases should be metal and able to be embedded in the ground.

Mary Logian said the policy “is just another negative thing (for grieving people).”

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