"We have to show them that we're not going to stand for this. If they're not going to come to us, then we're going to have to go to them."
Teri M. Walters' displeasure that members of the Brookside Cemetery board of directors will not speak to concerns raised about the removal of mementos from grave sites drew applause from the roughly 90 people at a meeting organized Thursday night at Eagles Aerie 782, 19260 Route 11.
Cemetery president Gordon Bonisteel told staff members earlier this month to make a sweep of grave-site effects at the 161-acre cemetery, a staff member in attendance said Thursday.
Items placed next to, and in some cases affixed to, gravestones were removed, cataloged and placed in two storage sheds.
"I had no idea this was going to happen," cemetery superintendent Philip Moses said. "I was on vacation with my family when I found out. I left early to come back and deal with this."
Mr. Moses, along with at least two other staff members, attended the Thursday night meeting organized by cemetery patrons calling for Mr. Bonisteel's removal from the board. Staff now employed at the cemetery, but not involved in the removal, said their coworkers performed the sweep only because Mr. Bonisteel unilaterally decided to have the items removed.
Messages left for Mr. Bonisteel at his home by a Times reporter have not been returned.
"We're all mad as hell, now enough is enough," said Michael P. Booth. "I don't think anyone here can disagree with that."
Mr. Booth and Shelly Duvall-Kent organized the meeting. Both asked that Thursday's audience also show up at the cemetery's board of directors meeting in October, although it was unclear when exactly that meeting will be held.
"You can bet that when I find out, the rest of you will know," Mr. Booth told the crowd.
Mementos have been placed by graves for quite some time.
"You see this, a properly decorated grave in 1970," said Mr. Booth, holding an aged Polaroid showing a gravestone surrounded by flowers, figurines and other personal effects. "If it was acceptable then, why isn't it acceptable now?"
Some of the items placed in the sheds, including solar lights and figurines, were not properly cataloged, making it very difficult for family members to identify, Mr. Booth said.
Following the meeting, both Mr. Booth and Ms. Duvall-Kent said they were upset that Mr. Bonisteel, or any other directors, did not present their case to the crowd.
"We know this was a terrible decision," Mr. Booth said. "But we need to make one thing clear: We support the job Mr. Moses and his staff have done at the cemetery. We know this was something brought upon them."
Mr. Moses said mementos are being allowed back on grave sites, as long as those items are not dangerous to cemetery workers.
Some of those prohibited items include porcelain and glass items, empty or full cans and fishing hooks.
Cemetery patrons with comments for Mr. Booth can contact him at BrooksideCare@yahoo.