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Families Furious After Mementos Are Cleared Away From L.I. Gravesites

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Family members make the pilgrimage once a week to visit the Uniondale, Long Island gravesite of their loved ones – often leaving cherished mementos.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, for 24 years, the Cornella family of Franklin Square said they have brought treasured medals, ribbons, religious figures and personal messages to six family members buried at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.

But they are not doing so anymore.

"They could have at least put it away and let us come take it," said Tracey Cornella.

Tracey Cornella's sister, Amy, was killed by a drunken driver in 1991. She said since then, it has been a spiritual bonding that has kept Amy's memory close -- with angels, balloons, pinwheels and other meaningful items for her grandparents left at the family gravesite.

"Right next to my mother and my sister's plot is my grandfather. I had his fireman's badge there. He had all kinds of, like, original fireman stuff – disappeared," Tracey Cornella said.

The gravesites were unexpectedly cleared, Cornella said.

"They said, 'No, everything is in the garbage,'" she said.

"It's bad enough that you lose your loved one, and you're upset, and it makes you grieve and it's emotional," added Greenfield Cemetery visitor Stephen Margiotta. "But then to lose whatever little things that you left for them – it's heartbreaking."

But the cemetery begs to differ. Greenfield Cemetery said one of its rules bans the placement of items on graves out of respect for all who visit the tombstones.

The cemetery says loved ones are given documents when they buy plots, outlining rules. A third document is mailed if families don't comply, the cemetery said.

The cemetery further said it enforces its policy with plenty of warning.

"I have six people buried there," Cornella said. "Someone in my family would have gotten a letter."

The town said families choose the cemetery because they want dignified gravesites without the distractions of others' memorabilia.

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