The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Midd-West Region

June 2, 2013

Widow upset by cemetery rules

— MOUNT PLEASANT MILLS — Grace Teats once found solace visiting her late husband’s gravesite and tending the flowers planted there.

The couple had been married 44 years when Donald died in August 2003.

“I would sit at the gravesite to be near him because I missed him,” Teats said.

Three decades ago, they purchased two cemetery plots in Arbogast Lutheran Church Cemetery, Mount Pleasant Mills.

At no time were they told about any rules or bylaws restricting landscaping at gravesites in the 150-year-old cemetery.

After Teats’ husband was buried, their daughter erected a stone edging around the monument. It remained for nine years until last year when Teats received a letter from the 11-member cemetery association notifying her the stone edging would have to be removed and flowers limited to within 12 inches of the front and sides of the tombstone.

Pastor Patrick Sipes got involved and assured Teats the issue was resolved and she could continue to maintain the edging.

Sipes left the church a few months later, and Teats was again contacted by the cemetery association, informing her she had until May 18 to remove the edging.

With a sob in her throat, Teats described her grandson’s grief at having to remove the items.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” she said.

Association Treasurer Sue Hoffman said the decision to limit the size of memorials was designed to protect lawn equipment and help groundskeepers maintain the cemetery.

“We don’t want to be insensitive about it, but we just wanted to make things easier,” she said. “There is a reason we did it, and we’re certainly not singling anyone out.”

Hoffman and the 10 other association members serve on a volunteer basis. She said they contacted an attorney about enforcing the rules and checked with other area cemeteries.

“Some cemeteries we visited have even stricter rules,” Hoffman said, citing one that requires flowers be removed at a specific time of year.

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