Big Bend cemetery changes add stress to grief, families say

For more than a decade, Mary Pedersen has visited her 11-year-old son, Evan, at Rural Home Cemetery -- sharing memories, celebrating birthdays and finding solace in the special place.

It is normally a place that brings comfort to mourners, but changes to the Big Bend cemetery are causing stress. Loved ones of the deceased are upset after they say new rules are getting in the way of grieving.

"There’s more to here than just the headstone," said Pedersen.

Each week, Pedersen comes out, cleans up the gravesite, plants flowers and decorates her child's resting place. He died in a tragic accident at school.

"This is where my son is buried, and this is where we come for peace and grieving," Pedersen said.

Mary Pedersen

Soon, that could all change with new rules at the cemetery. Come May 1, memorials and flowers will no longer be allowed. That means the bench, plans and decorations will need to go.

"I just can’t wrap my head around this. It’s coldhearted," said Pedersen.

Pedersen and others found out about the changes from signs posted at the gravesite.

"We have no notification, we have no input into what’s being said, it is very difficult," said Travis Payne, whose son is also buried at Rural Home.

Travis Payne

Payne and his wife, Debbie, lost their son in an accident in 1998. They've celebrated holidays and birthdays at the cemetery and even watched their decorations grow.

"They were just tiny little pine trees at the time and he passed away in 1998, so they’ve grown quite tall," said Debbie Payne.

Debbie Payne

The families are asking the village Cemetery Board to reconsider, so the site can continue to be a place of comfort and continue to help them heal.

"Allow us to keep what we have and what we’ve been promised," Pedersen said.

People are being allowed to place decorations on a shepherd's hook at their loved one's headstones. 

FOX6 News reached out to the village and public works repeatedly and did not hear back.

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