Communication improves at cemetery in Oneida after items removed from headstones

ONEIDA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — We have an update to one of Your Stories about memorials ripped off loved one’s graves at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Oneida in April of 2024. It’s not everything families were looking for, but there’s something.

Families at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Oneida are still wanting to know why this was done.

“The cemetery decided they wanted to clean everything off of the stones. They didn’t give us any notice. They just went through, and they just ripped everybody’s memorabilia off all of their stones,” said Ashley Palmer, mother of a child buried at the cemetery.

Palmer says the gravestone items were thrown into a pile next to the cemetery’s maintenance garage this past April without being given any notice. However, St. Patrick’s Cemetery Association President Jim Cronn says the cemetery did put a notice up on the church’s bulletin.

But that notice was missed by many people who don’t attend the church, including Palmer. Palmer says in the pile of items, was a flower pot she hand painted for her late son, Kody.

“My son was born with half a heart. He lived 126 days, about four months, and when he passed away, there was a big thing done on BIG FROG, one of my friends had wrote in and asked to blow a kiss to Kody,” said Palmer.

Palmer would soon receive hundreds of photos of people blowing kisses to Kody, showing their support for the mom who had lost her son in 2015.

“The support from the community was mind blowing. It was beautiful, and on that flower pot I had hand-painted, ‘Mommy still blows you a kiss every night,’” said Palmer.

Palmer says the flower pot sat right next to her son’s grave for nearly 10 years and it was never an issue. Now, it sits broken at her home.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to fix it. It’s in my garden at my house now because I don’t want anything else to happen to it,” said Palmer.

While Palmer isn’t the only one who’s items were impacted, she still feels she made a difference after a notice was placed on her son’s headstone, along with several others.

“We never did get our apology, and that’s fine, but we did make improvements because now they’re trying to communicate with us,” said Palmer.

Palmer and other families are still waiting for an apology from Cronn.

Jim Cronn responded to NewsChannel 9 with a statement:

While cemetery board of trustees feels badly that some people were unhappy with the cemetery cleanup we have an obligation to follow the cemetery rules that are clearly stated with the issue of every right to bury certificate, at both cemetery entrances and on the cemetery bulletin board. 

Our mistake when we did the initial cleanup was that we did not realize how many folks did not read the church bulletin. We had advertised the cleanup in the bulletin for over a month before we did it and we thought that was adequate. Obviously, some people thought we should have done a better job with that and we will certainly keep that in mind moving forward.

Our rules are and always have been that only live flowers either planted in the ground or in a single pot are permitted per occupied grave.

I should also note that we allow a flag from one’s country of origin or a military or first responder medallion per occupied grave. We do ask that flags be removed before winter as they become tattered and weathered over time.

Jim Cronn, president of St. Patrick’s Cemetery Association

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