Joliet native, Becky Sasser Mast went to Joliet's Elmhurst cemetery, expecting her visit to be just like any other Saturday. After visiting the grave site of her son for 12 years, she soon realized that Saturday was much different.
Upon coming to her son's grave, she found that all of the grave decorations had been removed and thrown into a pile near the grounds keeper's shed. This was not the work of grave robbers, but rather was intentional by the cemetery grounds crew. She quickly took to Facebook and expressed how upset she was with the sudden change.
"So upset. Went to our sons grave today at Elmhurst Cemetery in Joliet and all of his things were missing. Without any warning they changed the rules and are not allowing anything other than the stone. They gathered up the items from the graves and dumped it all near a storage shed. A lot of the items broke as a result of being dumped."
Many people reached out to Mast via Facebook and urged her to bring this matter to the local news, which resulted in her story being on the Joliet Patch and WGN News. The Joliet Elmhurst cemetery also took to Facebook in offering their apologies and an explanation.
"To the Elmhurst Cemetery families we serve, thank you for your feedback regarding the fall clean-up. While the criticism is hard to read, it's better to have people who care about the cemetery versus not caring at all. First, please accept our heartfelt and sincere apologies for any distress we may have caused you. It was certainly not our intention to upset anyone and our staff feels badly that we have disappointed you. Please let us offer an explanation." Elmhurst went on to explain that it does not have contact information for everyone who visits the cemetery.
"... We felt signage was the only effective way to communicate the rules regarding decorations and the clean-up schedule with everyone would who be affected. To that end, a large sign with this information was posted near the entrance in June."
The cemetery went on to explain that their grounds crew could have done a better job in removing the decorations but their hearts were in the right place. This removal was prompted by the fact that when winter comes, it can "turn into serious tripping hazards for others when those objects are covered by snow," the Facebook statement read. "Other visitors complain about decorations that look unsightly after being left on a grave for a long period of time."
Friends and family have the next week to visit the cemetery and claim the items on the graves of loved ones. The cemetery closed their statement in saying, "In closing, we again apologize to those that felt hurt or disrespected by our actions. That was certainly not what we set out to do."