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Cemetery controversy heats up as community members are told to take down decorations

Posted at 11:13 PM, May 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-24 23:13:49-04

TYRONE TOWNSHIP, Mich.-- A community in Kent County is upset with a situation that many found out about through Facebook. They are calling it 'insensitive'. The Facebook post shows a note tied to a decoration at a gravesite at Idelwild Cemetery. The note demands that the flagpole be removed.  Family and friends of the deceased, Donna Helen Marble Loveland, say they were 'blind-sided' by the request.

Fox 17 Problem Solver Cassandra Arsenault went to try to find out why the ‘decoration’ in question, the flag pole that was installed more than a decade ago, has to come down.

Loveland’s brother, Troy Marble says her husband, Mike Loveland, got special permission from the township to install the flag pole, and is confused why it has to be taken down. Marble says his sister was very patriotic and their family thought it would be appropriate to have a flag pole placed there in memory of her. Marble says at the time of her burial there were no other flag poles in the cemetery.

Loveland was well known in her community. She was a beloved teacher of Kent City Eagle View Elementary. Loveland has a scholarship in memory of her that is given out every year to a student who wants to be a teacher at a Kent City School. Also, a memorial garden is in her name located at Kent City Eagle View Elementary School in the courtyard.

The heart shaped graved in Idlewild Cemetery is where Donna Helen Loveland was buried nearly 14 years ago. She was a daughter, aunt, and sister. She was recently married not even three years before her death. Lastly, she was a teacher where she touched all of her students’ lives.

“She was my 5th grade teacher and I knew her because of that. Not only that, she just, you know, she really cared about her students,” said Shana Emmer, a former student of Loveland’s class.

Emmert isn't a family member, but she said Loveland showed her kindness she had never been given before.

“She really helped me open up because it was really hard for me to connect with other students, and she was always making me smile, and she called me ‘Smiley’,” said Emmert.

Emmert was alarmed when she saw a recent Facebook post. It was a tag put on the flag pole that read, “Not allowed. Please remove or we will. 678-4779.”

“It was upsetting to me because it has been there for so long and all of a sudden now it`s a problem. I don`t understand why just now it is becoming a problem, because from what I understand her husband was the one who had gotten special permission to get this installed,” said Emmert.

Fox 17 News called the number on the original tag. The number is the same number listed as the office number for Tyrone Township. The township was not available for comment as of Sunday night.

Fox 17 News was able to get in touch with the cemetery sexton listed on the Township’s website, Elsie Harrison. Elsie said they used to take care of the cemetery, but now she deals mostly with keeping track off the grave sites. She said the city hires people to upkeep the cemetery. She did not know anything about the tags on peoples’ belongings and decorations at the gravesite. People commenting on the Facebook post claimed to have shrubs, small trees, and personal belongings thrown out without warning. People in the community saying this doesn’t just happen at Idelwild Cemetary, but Chubbuck cemetery as well.

Sunday afternoon, the flag pole had a different tag than the one posted to Facebook with the same message.

“Yes. That’s a new tag. It’s different from the one that was being shared, but there’s still a tag asking the same thing,” said Emmert.

The township's sign at the cemetery and their ordinance does not specifically prohibit flagpoles, but it does allow the city the "right and authority to remove and dispose of any and all growth, emblems, displays, or containers therefore that through decay, deterioration, damage or otherwise become unsightly, a source of litter, or a maintenance problem".

As of Sunday afternoon, the flag pole is in good condition with no signs of damage.

“It seems really impersonal to me to just post a tag on it that it must be removed,” said Emmert.

Donna Loveland's sister, Debra Marble Poling, voiced her feelings on Facebook.

“This makes me sick to my stomach! My sister was Donna Marble Loveland and the flag pole was put in with special permission from her husband, which he still keeps up to this day. This has been there for nearly 14 years.”

Friends and family with loved ones’ gravestones that they take care of in these cemeteries wish that they would be approached in a different manner.

“It just seems kind of insensitive to me and to the other families here that they have to remove these things that they put here for their loved ones that care about them. It may have been a long time since she has passed away, but she is still in our hearts,” said Emmert.

The cemetery does not allow fencing, border, loose stones, decorations, and flowers or vegetation planted outside of urns or hanging baskets. The city ordinance was established in 1984.

“Maybe there needs to be a better way to let people know what the new rules are or what the old rules are even,” said Emmert.