A massive cleanup of Hazardville Cemetery in Enfield left residents outraged, and many said their property was damaged and loved ones' gravesites destroyed.
Family members were shocked when they realized the personal items that once adorned the graves of their loved ones had been piled in a large heap near the cemetery dumpster on Friday.
Some said they received no warning or notice before the cleaning.
Cemetery Superintendent Jeff Buckley disagreed and said that he gave fair warning. He said an ad ran in the Journal Inquirer, a local newspaper, for two weeks prior to the cleanup to notify the public.
Hildegard Perry said she was blindsided by the cleaning when she came to visit the cemetery where her mother, father and brother are buried.
As a former Enfield resident who now lives in Longmeadow, Mass., Perry said she has no access to the local newspapers and was very upset that cemetery officials did not contact the families directly.
"We were never notified. They should have at least sent a postcard or a phone call. We got nothing. We just came here and found everything in this huge heap,” Perry said.
Katherine Johnson, an Enfield resident, frequently visits the cemetery to visit the resting place of her son, Lance Cpl. Philip Johnson.
The former Marine was killed in battle while deployed in Iraq in 2006. She spoke of the anger and sadness she experienced after discovering that the military décor that had been placed on her son’s grave had been removed.
“It hit the community very hard. I don't want this to ever happen to anybody ever again,” Johnson said.
Many people reported that their belongings were broken or missing after the crews moved them from the plots. Some of the items included statues, flags, benches, lanterns and other mementos.
Buckley said that the intent of the spring cleaning was to allow family members who visit frequently to be able to reclaim their belongings, and place them back on the gravesites of their loved ones.
He said that over the years, caretakers of some grave sites have passed themselves, and there is no one to clean up the sites. Whatever items are unclaimed will be placed into storage temporarily.