SHAMOKIN TOWNSHIP, Pa. – A cemetery in Northumberland County found itself on the receiving end of social media backlash.
The Northumberland Memorial Park Cemetery near Sunbury is a big place. There have been more than 100 burials this past winter at the 35-acre cemetery.
Owner Jim Houck says this is the time of year when the maintenance team gets the cemetery ready for busy Memorial Day Weekend.
"We have a window that we clean the cemetery up to get ready for all that work yet to come," Houck said.
That means removing old flowers and wreaths from graves. Houck says the cemetery's policy has been the same for many years: from Thanksgiving until the first weekend in March, nothing on the graves is disturbed.
"We don't disturb anything until March 1. Weather permitting, that week we remove everything from the cemetery," Houck said.
Every year, the items are collected and placed at the top of the hill at a maintenance shed for people to collect them.
That's where social media comes in.
"We never dealt with social media before," Houck said.
After seeing the pile of decorations over the weekend, someone posted pictures of them on social media. People were upset, and the cemetery was bombarded with complaints.
"By reading the social media, and we read every one, there were some positive ones, and there were a lot of negative ones. They didn't understand," Houck said.
Phyllis Marcheskie of Coal Township was concerned the cement angel on her parents' grave was in the pile, but it wasn't.
"I was a little concerned when I saw how the things were just thrown up there, hoping that it wasn't just taken and broken apart," Marcheskie said.
Houck says the cemetery's policies are posted at the entrance and mailed to people's next of kin after burial. Now as a result of the Facebook post, items will be left out longer for people to claim.
"They want those things, and we want to make sure they have the ability to retrieve them and know how to retrieve them," Houck said.
The cemetery also has a policy where if someone cannot get their items in the allotted time, employees will hold the items for them. If no one claims the items, they will be properly disposed of.