TYRONE TOWNSHIP, Mich. – At Idlewild Cemetery in Tyrone Township, one less flag waved in honor of Memorial Day: the flag pole on the burial site for beloved Kent City Eagle View Elementary teacher, Donna Loveland, was removed.
Over the weekend, FOX 17 News first covered the story of Loveland’s family who said a note was placed on a flag pole that was at Donna’s grave, saying it needed to be removed. Donna was well-known in the community, and her family had gotten permission to install the flag pole close to 14 years ago.
It’s a similar situation for the Collins family, who meets at Idlewild Cemetery each Memorial Day to memorialize their mother and grandmother, Joan Collins, at her grave.
“She was the sweetest person you would ever meet in your life,” said Rachel Collins, family member. “If you needed something, she would give it to you, it wouldn't matter if she had it to give, she would find a way.”
Now the Collins's say their tradition is tainted: Two years ago they placed mementos at their loved one’s headstone, including a solar Bible and an iron heart-shaped planter, something that looks like others nearby.
Yet one day, family said they came and found township officials had removed them.
“We’re not vandalizing anything, we`re not hurting anybody, it`s just things that mom would like,” said Collins.
Collins said township officials told them they had their items, but never followed-through on when they said they would return them.
“We called the township office to find out where the stuff went, and they said they had it and to make an appointment; the girls did, my wife and my sister-in-law here made the appointment,” said Dave Whitten, family member. “And nobody ever come to the appointment, nobody followed up on it; just gone by the wayside I guess.”
Cemetery rules are posted at the entrance, they include: no fencing, borders, loose stones, decorations, or flowers can be planted outside of urns or hanging baskets.
When it comes to shepherd`s hooks, like the one the Collins family had standing, it states all hooks need to be in line with headstones, which family members said they abided by. Now, two years later, the family said they just want a response.
“You can call [township officials] but you don`t get an answer,” said Whitten.
They want their mementos returned.
“There were certain things that mom loved, so we made sure they were here for her, and they`re gone, and nobody has even responded to tell us where and how to get them back, or why they took them specifically, when other people had the same things that we had and they`re still there,” said Collins.
Ron Vander Lind said a similar thing happened to him a few years ago: He planted a tree at his son’s grave site at Idlewild Cemetery. Vander Lind told FOX 17 News that the tree followed the rules and was in line with his son’s headstone.
However, Vander Lind said township officials cut the tree down leaving a stump, without giving him any notice. Soon after, Vander Lind planted another tree at his son’s burial site. That time he said township officials notified him with a letter stating the second tree needed to be removed.
At that time, Tyrone Township Supervisor Dennis Kaminski wrote that Vander Lind violated a township cemetery ordinance, stating his planted white pine tree did not fall under the category of an acceptable ornamental shrub or dwarf tree.