Families upset after cemetery's fall clean up

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Flowers, personal items and mementos have been removed from grave sites at a local cemetery.

Ottawa Hills Memorial Park tells 13abc that it's part of an annual clean up and client families were notified ahead of time. But some are questioning how it was handled, even calling it disrespectful and callous.

"[They] just took it off their grave and tossed it," Nina Podzinski, said.

Her Facebook Live video shows garden stones and figurines piled up in a tent at Ottawa Hills Memorial Park.

"This is absolutely ridiculous," she said from behind the camera.

Many of Podzinski's family members are buried at the park at Central and Talmadge in Toledo, including her daughter Heather who recently died of a heroin overdose.

"I can't see Heather in person. But I can go out there and put things I know she would like or some of her things out there, that makes me feel closer to her," she said.

During her recent trip to the cemetery, she notice right away that small mementos she left on Heather's grave were gone.

"I went back there and I was disgusted," she said.

She also found stuff from her brother's site and a special plaque with her granddaughter's name broken in half.

The park says this is the result of an annual fall clean up and some of the items collected were against the rules.

"I feel like somebody just threw out yesterday's trash out there. You've got stuff outside the tent and around the tent," she said.

13abc contacted the Ottawa Hills Memorial Park and received a statement that read:

"“Ottawa Hills Memorial Park is committed to providing families with a peaceful, serene environment for visitation and remembrance. We empathize with grieving families who wish to add personal items to the graves of their loved ones. However, our obligation to the public and to all families with loved ones interred at our cemetery requires us to maintain consistent standards of appearance and safety.

It was never our intention to upset or offend any client family. Our regulations regarding decorations are available in all arrangement offices, the cemetery office entry area, are included with all contract paperwork and compliance with cemetery regulations is a condition of every contract with our property. We will continue this practice of providing reminders in advance of the annual clean-up event to provide all families we serve with a peaceful and beautiful environment in which to remember their loved ones. We encourage any client families with questions to contact us directly.”

It also states that families were asked to remove items they wanted to save and added that 3 ads were placed in the newspaper, 8 signs were posted int he park and information was put up on the website.

"I think it's more personable, more respectful and more dignified to just sent a letter to the family," Podzinski said.

Regardless of the policy, she says that the way it was handled was insensitive. She hopes everyone will learn from this, so it never happens again.

"We bought and paid for these plots and to say that we can't leave something there, that's wrong,"