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Graveside Memorials Bought With Love Treated Like Trash

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TERRELL (CBS11 NEWS) - A family was shocked to find graveside benches and statues removed from graves and discarded like trash at a cemetery in Terrell.

Debbie Vicars visits her son's grave at Highland Memorial Gardens every week.

"Mostly I tell him how much I miss him and how I wish he was here," said Vicars about her son Scotty Vicars.

Vicars usually sits on a bench she picked out with her husband and placed there after Scotty died in a motorcycle accident in 2007.

"To me, it's more than just an object. It's something for me to come and have a little peaceful time with my child," said Vicars.

But a peaceful visit turned frantic two weeks ago when Scotty's bench was nowhere to be found.

"Why would someone steal our bench?" asked Vicars.

Turns out, the bench wasn't stolen, it was thrown away.

"You can still see in the grass where each of them had been laying," said Vicars.

Vicars said ten benches, an angel figurine and a kneeling solider stature were removed from their graves and dragged to the dumpster.

"And these benches are not trash, they were bought with love, bought from the heart with love. I picked that out because it has angels on it," said Vicars.

Vicars said seeing the solider statue removed from a fallen solider's grave hurt almost as bad as seeing her own son's bench removed.

"It's like burning our flag and telling our country we don't care about your son or the statue on his grave. It's like, we don't care about any of these deceased people," said Vicars.

Vicars went to Anderson-Clayton brothers funeral home to ask why the sacred items were thrown away.

"I said, 'could you tell me why you removed some of the benches and left some of them?' " asked Vicars. "She said, 'We removed the ones from the graves that weren't bought at our funeral home,' " said Vicars.

The woman at the funeral home also handed her a policy manual from 2014 -- the same year, according to former owners, the funeral home and cemetery were bought by the corporation SCI or Dignity.

However, Scotty's bench was placed by his grave in 2007.

CBS11 asked Vicars if the company ever sent a letter or called to notify about a policy change.

"No mam' never," said Vicars.

Thus, CBS11's Cristin Severance visited the main office at Anderson Clayton Brothers funeral home on the hunt for answers.

She waited 40 minutes for two managers to arrive and tell her to call the corporate media-line.

The company spokeswoman in Houston, didn't have answers that day but the company sent the following statement through email:

We certainly empathize with grieving families who wish to add personal items to the graves of their loved ones. We care deeply for our families and strive to provide them with a peaceful and beautiful environment in which to remember their loved ones.

We have an obligation to all the families we serve and their loved ones who are interred at our cemetery to maintain a consistent standard of appearance, as well as safety in or around gravesites. Compliance with park regulations is a condition of every contract with our cemetery, and those regulations include standards for placement of personal items and decorations. Some decorations are grandfathered in under older guidelines and, therefore, allowed to remain on location. The bench in question was inadvertently removed during regular cleanup of the grounds and then placed back at its location where it remains.

We value our relationships with the families we serve and are committed to providing all families with a well-maintained environment for visitation and remembrance. If client families have any concerns or questions, we encourage them to contact us. It was never our intention to upset or offend any client family.


Vicars said even though the benches and statues were moved back, the damage and disrespect is done.

"I will cement this baby in the ground one way or the other. You're wrong. Your big corporation is wrong," said Vicars.


(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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