Vernon mother continues to grieve as Vernon cemetery removes 'approved' tribute to son

Fighting for son's tribute

A Vernon mother continues to grieve the loss of her son after the City of Vernon dismantled a graveside monument that had previously been approved by city staff.

Changes disallowing anything but fresh flowers and banning any kind of personal memorial came into effect at Vernon's Pleasant Valley Cemetery in March.

Cory Taylor says she's been battling with the city ever since in the wake of her son Kevin's death in 2017 in a tragic Highway 97A crash.

Taylor sought out city approval to have her carpenter son's steel helmet bolted to a flower stand on the grave as a "final tribute" – and she was given the go-ahead.

But when the new rules came into effect, she was contacted by a groundskeeper who said he would have to take it down.

"They dismantled it and took it apart" on the day a grace period ended, Taylor says.

"It might be something little, but it means a lot to us," she said.

Taylor was told if it was not picked up within 30 days, it would be "thrown in the garbage," so her daughter went and picked it up.

After numerous emails to city staff, Taylor wrote to Mayor Victor Cumming in April, stating:

"I buried my son in 2017 at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. My daughter and her husband wanted to give a last gift to her brother. We contacted City Hall and talked with the woman in charge of it at that time, and she referred me to the caretaker. They said we could make our flower holder, with the helmet attached, and gave us the specifications ... it was completed, he approved it and was put at my son's grave in August of 2017."

Taylor says she was told verbally by city staff the tribute could remain.

However, Cumming replied that the city "does not have any documentation indicating approval for the helmet to be attached to the flower loop. The contractors up at the cemetery do not have the permission to allow this, nor would they provide specifications to do so."

The city clerk in charge of the cemetery urged Taylor "to pick up the tribute to avoid its disposal, while awaiting a decision" and later replied: "I have received an answer for you, unfortunately this tribute is not allowed, consistent with all cemetery permissions related to tributes that are not monuments."

Taylor says she would like to bring the matter before council.

"This is bull****, as it is not a hazard, which was the reason for all the flowers etc. being removed," she said in an email.

She questions the safety issue and says while she acknowledges artificial flowers can blow all over the cemetery, the helmet was securely bolted down.

"I think about it every day and cannot sleep," she said, pleading for the city to reconsider.

"I would like to bolt this back on the stand. It is not a trinket nor a hazard."

Meanwhile, a petition opposing changes at the cemetery has now gained more than 2,000 names.

From March 15 to Oct. 15 only fresh-cut floral arrangements are now allowed, and during the winter only potted plants, wreaths, and artificial floral arrangements.

No toys, photos, military insignia or trinkets are allowed any time of year.

The city announced the changes last year and said it "understands and respects the need for families to honour loved ones through the placement of offerings at gravesites. This is part of the grieving and healing process."

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