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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist


Several times per year--and with greater frequency in the spring and summer--we hear or read variations of the following:

"I placed a ____ on my loved one's grave, and someone STOLE IT. What kind of person would do such a thing?"

Items that are placed at graves as tokens to the departed might include flowers, urns, flags, lighting, religious symbols, holiday decorations, statues and figurines, toys, and more. Certainly there are activities that happen in cemeteries that are offensive, and some things that disappear from there might really have been stolen. But I suspect in the vast majority of circumstances, items are removed by the cemetery sextons or caretakers.

Cemeteries (or parts of them) can be classified as perpetual care or non-perpetual care.

Perpetual care means that the cemetery or its association is responsible for some care of the location. That might include mowing the grass and trimming around the markers, snow removal from the pathways and drives, and so on. Each individual cemetery or association will have its own guidelines that spell out what is maintained and what is allowed. Usually included in those guidelines is that items placed on graves will be removed after a certain amount of time.

Non-perpetual care therefore means it's not perpetual care. Sometimes that status is posted, but not always. The example below is from a rural cemetery that is so "not-perpetually" cared for that they reused an old street sign to indicate it (and maybe rationed their Es). Of course that doesn't mean that anything and everything can be placed at a non-perpetual sites. We know many volunteers who routinely clean up this type of cemetery, as there is no one else to do it. Items that are broken, windblown, faded, or potentially dangerous are often removed in an attempt to keep it looking as litter-free and respectful as they can.

Before leaving any items at the grave of your loved one, make sure you know the cemetery's guidelines for removal of those items. Sometimes there is a monetary investment in those tokens, but there is always a sentimental investment.


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