Last Christmas, Rose Heckman left a large wreath at the grave of her late husband several weeks before Christmas, and tied it down with yarn and pegs. Within two days it was gone. Other mourners have experienced the same problem at St. Raymond Cemetery.
While it is not clear whether these missing items are the result of thefts, or simply maintenance crews being extremely vigilant, they are angering some visitors St. Raymond’s Cemetery.
The cemetery is located in Throggs Neck and its management assures mourners that thefts occur very seldomly.
“We have had incidents of thefts once or twice, but there could be other incidents that we don’t know about,” said Frank Mangual, director of the office of operations at St. Raymond’s Cemetery. “We can’t log it if we don’t know about it.”
Mangual said that cemetery crews clean the cemetery several times a year, but always post signs just before so items may be removed prior to the cleaning.
However, Heckman and others in different sections of the cemetery do not believe that the disappearing wreaths, flower-pots, and floral arrangements are the result of cleaning crews doing routine duties. The items are simply disappearing too quickly.
“Sometimes I put the flowers in plastic cones, and they are gone within days,” Heckman said. “I think people selling flowers outside of the cemetery may be taking some of the items.”
Heckman said that the theft of the wreath at Christmastime was especially hard to take, because Christmas is a big holiday for her family.
Heckman’s friend Bill Cirillo, who recently lost his wife, was also upset at the cemetery. He said crews threw away fresh flowers just after the funeral service for his wife ended. Cemetery officials said they were just following procedure, according to Cirillo. He also said he lost other items at his wife’s grave.
“I went there the day before Palm Sunday and left a really nice cross,” Cirillo said. “My brother went there the next day and the cross wasn’t there anymore. It seems things just disappear at St. Raymond’s.”
Heckman’s sister has also had a similar experience with missing items at St. Raymond’s.
“I would go up a couple of weeks before Christmas and leave flowers, and they would be gone within a week,” said Heckman’s sister Loraine Gentile “Cemetery crews wouldn’t be cleaning items up then.”
Mangual maintains it is indeed the cemetery’s crew: “In general, all of the things that are removed are done so by the cleaning. It is not theft.”