Ascension Parish families outraged after cemetery removes keepsakes from gravesites
PRAIRIEVILLE - Families in Ascension Parish whose loved ones are buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery are outraged after their keepsakes, flowers, and other belongings were cleared from the gravesites without much notice.
"I was horrified," said Donna Baxter, who went to visit her grandparents' grave.
Baxter and many others spent Wednesday afternoon searching through trash bags, desperately trying to find any items brought for their loved ones buried there.
"It's no more than garbage to whoever did the cleaning up. Didn't mean anything to them," Baxter said.
The cemetery is managed by the Household of Faith Church. After Hurricane Ida, the staff began the clean-up process.
"The day after the storm, all of our vases were concreted to the vaults. Everything, I thought, survived. Two days later, I come out here, and it's all been taken off,busted off, and disposed of," Baxter said.
Families understand the grounds have to stay tidy but hoped there would be more notice that mementos for their loved ones were going to be removed.
According to the cemetery's rules and regulations, anything in a vase can stay. But families say many of their vases have been ripped off.
"They had wiped out everything. There's no flowers, no vases, and there are things gone I thought they would have never taken," said Donna's husband, Jerry Baxter.
In a statement sent to WBRZ, Pastor Scott Bledsoe with Household of Faith said:
"I wish to apologize to anyone with family or friends buried in the Mt. Zion Cemetery if our efforts to secure the grave sites and clean up storm debris caused you concern. As you can see the damage was extensive. Our hearts were in the right place and we hope that you understand that we have not been accessible by phone to respond to any issues because Hurricane Ida damaged the Church's phone system. Thank you to those of you who have reached out and worked with us to resolve any issues. If you have an issue at Mt. Zion you can reach us at hofchurch.com/cemetery and we will get back in touch with you."
Later mentioned in the statement, Bledsoe said the church will now be taking on the cost of any gravesite repairs.